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Old 09-24-2009, 07:55 AM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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Location: Rock Hill, SC
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Ghost--A lot of the hype and hoopla connected with this book (Smoky Mountain Magic) is questionable. First of all, Kephart scholars (and I consider myself one, since I own an extensive collection of papers relating to him, have written a number of articles on him, did the Introduction to the reprint of Camping and Woodcraft, and edited a book which brings together his writings on gun-related matters) have known about this work for decades. The recent it has never been published, at least in my opinion, is that fiction wasn't Kep's genre. That's precisely why publishers rejected it in the late 1920s (I have some of the rejection letters). It also has some of the same faults which absolutely frost my grits when it comes to Our Southern Highlanders. Namely, misplaced and misrepresentational stereotypes of local fokways, sensationalizing of an inaccurate kind, etc. The novel is set in a fictional town (almost certainly Bryson City, my home) and is nowhere near Kep's standard when he was dealing with non-fiction.
It will sell well, because his name and fame will "carry" it, but I continue to be vexed by the way his family misrepresents some aspects of the man which those of us who are faithful to history and our mountain roots can't forget or forgive. After all, here was a man who abandoned (for good) a wife and six children, a man who struggled with chronic alcohol problems all his life (and was finally killed because of his drinking (he died drunk in a wreck where the taxi driver was also drunk, thanks to Kep sharing the illicit liquor with him), and a man who lived as long as he did SOLELY because staunch mountain folk (Granville Calhoun and his wife, on Hazel Creek) nursed him back to health from the brink of death. Yet the hype for this book suggested Kephart "befriended" the Hazel Creek folks and implies he did them a favor. Just the opposite of what happened. Likewise, Kephart's depiction of mountain folkways in Our Southern Highlanders is absolutely unpardonable.

Obviously this post, or more accuratelyk the subject of the post, touched a raw nerve. I admire a great deal about Kephart. He was the consummate woodsman and camper, Camping and Woodcraft is one of the ten best=selling outdoor books of all time, and he deserves a great deal of credit for creation of the Park. I was the one who nomiinated him for the American Camping Hall of Fame. But I also recognized, all too clearly, just how significant his faults were. Today's world and especially his descendants, along with some writers, seem all too willing to forget the facts.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com
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