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108Southern Cultures father-trained males, blacksmiths were able on a daily basis to make something useful and tough, an activity and indeed a stance toward life that was ultimately destructive of slavery itself. In this connection, Dew's major title, Bond ofIron, is absolutely marvelous, since those two nouns recapture so many aspects of what went on at Weaver's enterprise. The word bond in Old English referred to a householder. The term became conflated with another, bind. The word bond became the root of bondage and in its plural form came to mean fetters. Bind went off in a slightly different direction, but since it, too, was related to the word band, we still have a "band of gold." Eventually bond acquired a financial meaning, connoting a binding agreement, though the term bailbondsman shows how easily such terms recirculated to combine elements of money and constraints on personal freedom. The word iron has lad a less flexible history. Its suggestion of toughness and rigidity, but also malleability, set it on a semantic course that led to in irons, meaning in shackles, but it also came as a verb to mean "flatten." When iron went to sea, it referred to the vessel itself, as when "to be in irons" became the term for that dangerous point when the sails were not filling and therefore the rudder not working, a point of total lack of control of the ship. In those cases, all aboard were bonded by a common risk, as were the people in this vividly described communal operation of bondage and iron far from the sea in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Inherit the Alamo: Myth and Ritual at an American Shrine. By Holly Beachley Brear. University of Texas Press, 1995. 184 pp. Cloth, $19.95. Reviewed by James E. Crisp, associate professor of history at North Carolina State University. Crisp is the author of "The Little Book That Wasn't There: The Myth and Mystery of the de la Peña Diary." José Enrique de la Peña's controversial memoir ofthe Texas Revolution contains an alleged eyewitness account of the death of a captive David Crockett by summary execution immediately following the battle ofthe Alamo. What can one learn about history from a trip to the Alamo? Quite a lot—especially if one is prepared to approach the site with the critical eye and the sensitive ear of the anthropologist . The first lesson to be learned from Holly Brear's wide-ranging but perhaps too brief study of myth and ritual at this "American shrine" is that history—not the past itself but its contemporary exposition—is viewed by a great many people as something far too important to be left in the hands of historians. One may indeed find scholars at work in archival research at the Alamo, tucked away in a corner of the grounds at the Library of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT), a small building which remains closed to the general public. The history lessons intended for that public, however, are to be found elsewhere on the grounds, in forms both more rarified and more tangible than the documentary records housed in the DRT Library. First, visitors hear the narrative of tragic heroism and ultimate triumph that is recited within the sacred walls of the Alamo chapel, amid the reverentially displayed relics left behind by the departed defenders. Then they are steered out a side door that leads to the souvenir shop, where the commodified past may be purchased in the form of T-shirts and tomahawks, maps and musket balls, coloring books and (of course) coonskin caps. Reviews109 Though the crass commercialism of the gift shop, typical of so many historic sites, is a familiar and inviting target for the cultural critic, Brear's analytical focus remains throughout this book on the implications of the sacred narrative itself. She aptly calls the story told within the walls of the Alamo chapel "The Texas Creation Myth," and she shows that both its disciples and its detractors acknowledge the considerable power of that widely disseminated myth in shaping the identity and the status of every Texan. At the heart of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 108-110
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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