Lynn Hummel column: If you liked it, read it again

Rereading a great book brings great enjoyment.

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Lynn Hummel

Think of one of the best books you’ve ever read. One you can’t forget. If you haven’t read it lately, one of the great pleasures of life is to read it again.

For example, some years ago I read "Undaunted Courage" by Stephen Ambrose. The book came out in 2002. It is the history of America’s Louisiana Purchase from France engineered by President Thomas Jefferson and his appointment of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to organize an exploration of the territory to tell us what we bought, (everything west of the Mississippi River and east of the Continental divide). The exploration was to follow the Missouri River to its source and determine if there was an all-water route to the Pacific Ocean.

I grew up on the Missouri River in McLean County, North Dakota, camped on the river banks before the Garrison Dam, then later canoed long stretches of the Big Muddy, the first time with my 11 year old son, Buckwheat, and my 13 year old daughter, Goldilocks. We camped overnight on sandbars and rode three days with the current (but against the south wind, so we needed to paddle). When we got hot (one day the temp hit 101), we stopped and swam in the cool Missouri. We cruised in the general area where Louis and Clark spent the winter in 1804 among the Mandan Indians, now near Washburn on the hills overlooking the river. Pioneer father taught his children the delight of cooking along the river with specialties like Vienna sausage and Dinty Moore Beef Stew. We all remember those meals to the present day. What an exciting memory that “expedition” was.

So when I read "Undaunted Courage," every detail in that book was interesting. At one point, Lewis and Clark had 27 men, all picked for toughness, dependability, hunting ability and spirit of adventure. On the trip west, they went up the Missouri – against the current. When they got to the Mandans, they took on 15 year old Sacagawea, wife of a French Canadian, Toussaint Charbonneau. Sacagawea was a Shoshone Indian from the Montana area of the territory and was a big help as a guide and interpreter. Husband Charbonneau wasn’t much help at all except to make buffalo sausage. Sacagawea was six months pregnant when she joined the crew and had a baby boy, Jean Baptiste, who all the men in the camp called “Pomp.”

The meals consisted of deer, elk, buffalo, and occasional bear meat along with a few fish and some herbs they picked up along the way. When food was gone they ate a few horses (they had traded with Indian tribes for horses along the way, but they weren’t too fond of pony burgers and the horses were needed for packing.) They found they much preferred puppy meat when the cupboard was nearly bare. When they were desperate, Sacagawea helped them find some edible roots. Along the way, they discovered plants and animals and Lewis reported his findings in detail in letters to President Jefferson.


Along the way, Lewis discovered and described one of the best-loved birds of the Great Plains, (and one of my favorites) the western meadowlark. They battled mountains, snow, rock turbid waters, diarrhea, venereal disease, injured feet, cold, heat, exhaustion (Lewis acted as camp doctor), language problems and all the hardships of the wilderness, found the Columbia River, and arrived at the Pacific Ocean (at Cape Disappointment) then turned around and came back arriving at the end in St. Louis in September of 1806. They had spent three winters camping out along the way.

I enjoyed the book immensely as a reading both in history and adventure. I appreciated Thomas Jefferson’s vision and foresight and I appreciate once again that I’m not living on Canada soil. And now, I’m enjoying reading the story a second time. There is so much that I had forgotten since the first time.

This is not a plug for the book "Undaunted Courage." It is simply a word to those of you who are serious readers. If you keep remembering a great book that you read at one time, I can tell you, you will find a huge enjoyment in reading it again.

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