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An excerpt from the beginning of
CHAPTER I. "THE GREAT AMERICAN DESERT"
THE school-boy of half a century, and more, ago was taught by his geography that a large area west of the Missouri River, and not very far from the banks of that dark stream, was the "Great American Desert."
In somewhat uncertain lines that arid waste was shown on the map of the republic in his atlas, less known than the sirocco-swept Sahara. But before this almost unknown territory had been eliminated from his books, he began to learn through the everyday sources of information that this region was being encroached upon by the advance skirmishers of civilization.
The boy did not comprehend it all, but as he stepped along in years it became plainer and plainer, and by the time he had reached manhood and its affairs, his own progress and that of the far West had so broadened and improved that what he had learned of the "Great American Desert" had become a dim reminiscence.
First, the boy had seen a few of the volunteer soldiers of the Mexican War, who had come back to the States, and who had brought with them a mustang pony, curious Mexican jewelry and Indian trappings, a sombrero, and a serape of bright colors, a buffalo robe, and other things that specially impressed his youthful fancy. He heard the returned soldier talk to the "old folks" about the West and Southwest - not yet touching the Great American Desert, but getting quite close to it.
This set the boy to looking westward.
Then he heard of the discoveries of gold in California. Sutter's mill-race was his property, in a way, and he was well acquainted with neighbors who went away, far toward the "jumping-off-place," to the "diggings." Then came the song "Joe Bowers," that told the sad tale of a man who went to "Californy" to win a fortune for his sweetheart, and how she proved false because Joe had gone so far that he never could possibly get back, and she married a redheaded butcher and had a red-headed baby - according to Joe's wail of woe.
Then, through letters home, from the argonauts and other adventurers, the boy learned of emigrant trains that crossed the vast plains, and of the Overland Stage coaches, the great, swinging ships of the plains that were nearly like the caravels of Columbus, but following one after another, until there was an undulating line of them stretching from start to finish across the map, in his mind, of billowy prairie, sand-bottomed and treacherous streams, white-faced desert, mountain defiles, snow-crowned peaks, and so on to Sutter's Mill, and thereabout.
And the boy was close to the beginning of the facts.
Much was printed in the newspapers and magazines of the day concerning all this, and the boy devoured it. Now and then a book came within his reach that fairly teemed with the wonderful West and the exploits of men and women, and even some boys, like himself, in the long journey across the continent, and actually over the Great American Desert.
My life is consumed by dieting. I have lost and gained and lost again - only to gain even more - but I hope these light hearted verses will make you laugh along with me on the daily struggle to keep fit and lose weight. I am writing these verses every day and they keep me focused on what I am trying to achieve along with keeping it fun - who needs serious?
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