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262Southwestern Historical QuarterlyOctober From other perspectives, however, Feast orFamine is less successful. Horsman's evident talent for rooting through sources to compile hundreds of anecdotes is counterbalanced by a conspicuous lack ofanalysis or sustained attention to current historiography. Environmental historians will righdy lament Horsman's refusal to situate the agricultural transformations he mentions—forest clearing, prairie breaking, irrigation, and commercial game hunting—in an ecological framework . Historians of the borderlands will bristle at the book's embrace of a heroic Turnerian thesis with scant attention paid to the "middle ground" complexities of edinic and racial interaction. Historians attuned to rhetorical tropes will be left frustrated by the way in which Horsman takes his travel narratives at face value, presumably uninterested in interrogating them as documents constructed by the era's literary modes. These complaints have some justification. When Horsman mentions that a traveler in Wyoming "saw anodier new feature of western life—the Chinese," he merely notes diat the Chinese "were the main labor force on the western stretch of the transcontinental railroad." (145) Their cultural, much less their culinary, role in the simmering ethnic stew of the West goes unmentioned. When he notes how "the best days of roaming the central Rockies to trap beaver were over by 1840" (92), he does so without acknowledging the broader environmental transformations pioneers had been initiating since the seventeenth century. And when he recounts a letter from Oregon that indulgently exaggerates the region's natural cornucopia, he observes that "her letter reads like a promotional brochure" without explaining that, as a settler with a clear self-interest in further immigration, the woman was writing dispatches intended to be promotional brochures. The two-page conclusion does little to address these concerns. But these flaws are not fatal, primarily because Feast or Famine has one overriding strength—and although it is not necessarily a strength that scholars in the trenches will appreciate, it is one that a general readership certainly will: it is a fount of information regarding material culture of migrant trails. Horsman introduces us to stalwart migrants who went years without eating vegetables, ate buzzards and rats in times of privation, would eat up to eight pounds of meat a day (sometimes raw), made a delicacy of boiled buffalo innards, and leavened bread with "hop water" left over from making beer. Innovative and at times gag-inducing examples of culinary adaptation—even if they are not employed to address more sophisticated historical questions about identity, environmental awareness, or literary construction—can, in able hands, provide deeper insights into historical experience. Feast and Famine, for all its faults (or perhaps because of them), achieves this goal. Texas State University-San MarcosJames McWilliams The Settlement ofLeon Springs, Texas: From Prussia to Persia. ByJeanne Dixon and Marlene Richardson. (San Antonio: Passing Memories, 2008. Pp. 364. Illustrations , maps, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN g78i6o585o8g4, $35.00 cloth.) Those who endeavor to write community histories will no doubt identify widi 2oogBook Reviews263 the authors' introductory remarks, which, in effect, ask "What if nothing happened here?" The "here" in this case is the small community of Leon Springs in Bexar County northwest of San Antonio, and at first glance the authors' concerns might seem justified. Throughout its existence, Leon Springs has worked hard to assert its cultural identity, from its early years as a frontier setdement to the present day, when it finds itself competing for survival against an ever-encroaching suburban landscape. Searching for historical relevance in such an environment would seem a daunting task. AuthorsJeanne Dixon and Marlene Richardson are to be commended for taking on the challenge ofdocumenting the history of Leon Springs. Fortunately for them and for the reader, they found plenty of good historical material to mine. The area served as home—sometimes only briefly, sometimes for long—to such notable Texans as colonizerJohn Meusebach and naturalist FerdinandJacob Lindheimer , and to such colorful characters as the sharpshooting husband and wife team of Ad and Plinky Toepperwein, legendary cavalryman Tommy "Pink Whiskers " Tompkins, and the eccentric Donkey Lady. Adding extra flavor to the overall story ofLeon Springs are brief histories ofearly families, including the Aues, Von Plehwes, Altgelts, and many others who figured prominently in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9560
Print ISSN
0038-478X
Pages
pp. 262-263
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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