The Wild Kingdom on the Santa Fe Trail (University of Oklahoma Press, $19.95)

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As Far As the Eye Could Reach:  Accounts of Animals Along the Santa Fe Trail, 1821-1880, by Phyllis S. Morgan is a wonderful essay collection that examines animal life, both wild and domestic, along the Santa Fe Trail, when it was the “highway of commerce” between Missouri and New Mexico. Morgan includes firsthand accounts from famous travelers—Zebulon Pike, Josiah Gregg, William Becknell—and lesser-known adventurers, freighters, miners and pioneers. In their telling, buffalos ignite hunters’ “blood lust,” wild mustangs race by with “a noise like thunder,” wolves howl, pronghorns display “ease and grace,” and rattlesnakes prove “troublesome.” The section on domestic animals ends with a chapter on the dog, “humanity’s best friend.” Morgan’s goal was to honor the major role that animals played in Western history, and she has succeeded admirably.

Nancy Plain, author of This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon

 

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