Re: NANFA--Paddlefish and gar, 1908

Todd Crail (
Wed, 18 Feb 2004 15:58:42 -0500

"It wasn't the vision and principles of our forefathers that made this
country great. It was the huge unused bonanza they found here.
One wave of immigrants after another could occupy new land,
new land, new land. There was topsoil, water -- there was
gold, silver, and iron ore lying right on top of the earth. We picked
our way through a ripe orchard and made it bare."

-- Glenn Saunders, quoted in "Cadillac Desert"

I want to think about this a little bit more, and maybe shed a little more
insight into our Founding Father's tradition of increasing land holdings.

I recently read "Undaunted Courage" by Stephen Ambrose, which chronicles the
trip of Lewis and Clark, and is worth a read for sure. Anyway, he's very
quick and continues to point out what formed Thomas Jefferson's mindset in
the Louisiana Purchase... He was a Virginian tobacco farmer. So?

Well... Understanding the operations of early 18th century Virginian tobacco
farmers is important. Their crop needed fertile soils and zero shade. Take
out the shade of the Applacian hardwood forest, and you loose the fertility
of the soils after a few seasons. Fortunately, stumps were not viewed as
"in the way" and kept the soils more intact (they just felled or girdled
trees and planted around stumps) which made recovery much easier. Whereas
in Indiana and Ohio, as an example, they ripped them all out becuase land
ownership was on much smaller scale and those farmers felt they needed every
last square inch. The established Virginians had a habit of aquiring new
land, felling the forest and taking the profit out of the wood stock,
growing tobacco on it for a couple 3 years, and during that time... Aquiring
more land, etc ad nauseum.

Heros for "conquering" the wild? I wouldn't call them heros any day of the
week. A romanticized "Greedy Bastid" seems to fit better. These guys were
as much a resources pigs as gross industrialists, subsistance farmers and
third world cattle ranchers we point nasty fingers at these days. Happy
Presidents Day, right? :)

But there's some good in it... What helps to understand the subsistance
farmers is... They're only making the mistakes our society has been guilty
of, what a resources deficit we were fortunate to make over the hump (it'd
be interesting to see how the Great Depression tied into the loss of natural
resources, but I'm no economist). And that it's our job to make a economic
and human survival case for them in our civil, economic, and time freedoms
nature has already _paid for_ to show them ways to work sustainably with
their natural resources.

Ah.... So nice to have another thought than "Why isn't this $#%^ SQL
Statement working!!!!????!!!" :)

It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
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