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Thread: 'New' book by Horace Kephart of GSMNP

  1. #1
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    Default 'New' book by Horace Kephart of GSMNP

    I agonized over where to post this?! It DOES have the most to do with the park, and the park [GSMA] seems to have even gotten it published for the anniversary. Everyone who appreciates the Smokies oughta read Kephart's books. [Though not sure how 'relevant' this novel may be.]
    It's a novel set in the Smokies in Kephart's time called: 'Smoky Mountain Magic'. Probably has some fishing in it along with local color -and characters.
    Supposedly has existed since years before his death and has been 'close-held' by his family all these years.
    My son sent me the notice since we'd just visited Kephart's grave a couple weeks ago in Bryson City-and I'd given him Kephart's books when he was young.
    More info. at the link [IF I can get it to work]. On sale at visitor centers. Ghost

    http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pb...D=200990923084

  2. #2
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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

  3. #3
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    Jim, do you know if this will be another University of Tennessee Press job?

  4. #4
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    Jim, I agree that Kephart has his 'warts'-but we all do. Historically Kephart rates pretty far down the 'hate' scale compared to guys like Andy Jackson who stabbed the Cherokees in the back [relating to this area and people] . Mooney is the other extreme, an informative academic but 'vanilla'. For good or ill Kephart put 'appalachia' on the map-with generally positive results. Course that's arguable too re: the old GSM area residents who got pushed out.
    And, yes, as my boy said about the 'new novel' " ...probably not a literary classic". But whatever it's provenance, I'd consider it a necessary read simply for opinions sake:-).

    Personally I like both Kepharts and Nesmuks old campcraft books over the sociological ones -and some of the Adirondack folks didn't like everything Sears wrote about them either.
    Regardless, thanks for the info. about the 'new novels' provenance, I'd never heard anything about it. Guess the GSMA saw it as a 'money maker' for the cause.
    It'll be interesting what the 'forward' or publisher's notes say in the 'novel' itself. Ghost

  5. #5
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    Okay,I've been reading Our Southern Highlanders for the first time and taking Jim's viewpoint in mind,and what Kephart says himself,it seems to me so far that the guy just freeloaded off the mountain folks alot.Maybe he earned a living,I haven't seen that yet,so I maybe wrong on the freeloader part.
    In turn he played boths sides towards the middle for his own advantage,and was not an unbiased onlooker.
    He drank the "blockade" whiskey,then went on a "manhunt" with a revenuer,whom he befriended because he looked on him as an intellectual mysterious,counterpart,and looked on the mountainfolk as a backwards people while befriending them.
    I think it's a wonder he wasn't "kilt"....maybe he wasn't a serious enough threat because he knew what the outcome would be if he informed.The trait of a wishy washy person to me,one who knows how to keep his hide off the barndoor...just my 2 cents.
    It's an entertaining book and insightful in some ways...he was an educated outdoorsman,I'll give him that much.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grannyknot View Post
    Jim, do you know if this will be another University of Tennessee Press job?
    Grannyknot--Nope. This is published by the Great Smoky Mountains Association. I haven't actually seen the published book (although I read the manuscript of the book decades ago). Jim Casada
    www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
    Jim, I agree that Kephart has his 'warts'-but we all do. Historically Kephart rates pretty far down the 'hate' scale compared to guys like Andy Jackson who stabbed the Cherokees in the back [relating to this area and people] . Mooney is the other extreme, an informative academic but 'vanilla'. For good or ill Kephart put 'appalachia' on the map-with generally positive results. Course that's arguable too re: the old GSM area residents who got pushed out.
    And, yes, as my boy said about the 'new novel' " ...probably not a literary classic". But whatever it's provenance, I'd consider it a necessary read simply for opinions sake:-).

    Personally I like both Kepharts and Nesmuks old campcraft books over the sociological ones -and some of the Adirondack folks didn't like everything Sears wrote about them either.
    Regardless, thanks for the info. about the 'new novels' provenance, I'd never heard anything about it. Guess the GSMA saw it as a 'money maker' for the cause.
    It'll be interesting what the 'forward' or publisher's notes say in the 'novel' itself. Ghost
    Ghost--We'll have to agree to disagree on the manner in which Kepahrt put Appalachia on the map. In that regard, I'll quote two authorities: (1) Try to get access to a copy of Judge Felix Alley's book, Ramdom Thoughts and Musings of a Mountaineer and see what he has to say about Kephart (and Margaret Morley, another author who looked down on mountain folks). Alley was a well-educated, highly accomplished son of the mountains, and his commentary is telling indeed. (2) My other authority is my 100-year-old father, who knew Kephart personally. He sums up the situation pretty simply: "I didn't like that man. He was always sullen and didn't do the mountain folks any favors."

    I will agree on the woodsmanship aspects of his career. He was a master. Also commonly overlooked is his extraordinary knowledge of guns, ballistics, marksmanship, and related subjects.
    Jim Casada
    www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  8. #8
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    Rebelsoul--You pretty much have the picture as I see it. Kephart was a miserable money manager and he did indeed freeload on the mountain folks--in various ways. They saved him when he first showed up in 1904, nurtured him all through the ensuing 27 years, provided the cemetery plot where he is buried, settled his estate and his bills (he died owing money), bought him a suit of clothes when he was to speak to an august group on behalf of establishing the Park, and much more. Laura (his abandoned wife) was constantly importuning him for money, and according to no less than four different people I interviewed who knew him reasonably to very well, every time he got a letter form her he went on a week-long drunk. Amazingly, today's descendants maintain she was a great inspiration to his literary endeavors.

    In the revised edition of Our Southern Highlanders, a full 40 percent of which is devoted to moonshine in one way or another, it is obvious (and extant directions from his NY publisher bear this out) that he turned to sensationalism to sell books.

    He did have a knack for making close friends, although a lot of local folks turned against him once the revised edition of his book appeared. Jack Coburn, probably the area's wealthiest man at the time, was quite close to him, as was the Japanese-born photographer George Masa, local druggist Kelly Bennett, I. K Stearns (who handled his estate after Coburn was killed in a car wreck) and a few others. The common folks though, people like my father, had little use for him.

    One thing I've always found strange is that while Kephart wrote a great deal about hunting and guns, if he had much of anything to say about mountain fishing I've never come across it. Yet he spent time with folks like Granville Calhoun, Mark Cathey, and Sam Hunnicutt, anglers (and hunters) all. It's surprisign, given his love of living in the backcountry, his considerable knowledge of camp cookery (he wrote a book in the subject), and his interest in living off the land.
    Jim Casada
    www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  9. #9
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    Jim, I am currently reading Michael Frome's "Strangers in High Places". After yesterday's discussion, I skipped directly to the chapter about Kephart, based on Frome's interview with Granville Calhoun.

    He seems to avoid glorifying his "coming" to these mountains. I would be interested to get your take on the stories and details provided by Frome if you have, or will read the book.

  10. #10
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    I may need to reread Our Southern Highlanders.

    I was somewhat excited about the book through the first few chapters but the feeling started to wane. It seemed that the moon shining was a little over played. Seems that a book that is supposed to be a regional study turned into a book about moonshine that had a few hunts for man and bear thrown in.

    I was a little disappointed.
    Jason

    jasonkelkins at yahoo dot com

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