One of my favorite publications—historical or otherwise—is the quarterly magazine of Chadron, Nebraska’s Museum of the Fur Trade. A yearly membership at the museum is $15, and it’s worth every penny, even if, like me, you live two thousand miles away from Chadron, Nebraska. It’s worth it because you get this nifty little magazine.
But the big news for me—and for anyone who teaches the history of the American West—in the Fall 2011 issue was a wonderful article by W. Raymond Wood exploring the enormous importance of cats on the frontier.
Apparently, the brown rat, also known as the Norway rat, came to the American West with Euroamericans and quickly infested local Indian communities and the frontier forts in their vicinities. In the 1830s, a man at one fort recorded the numbers of rats he trapped: in February 1836 alone he got 89. Mind you, these are just the ones he caught.
In the West, rats and the native field mice decimated stored food. One military leader complained that every day the rats ate five bushels of his fort’s corn supply. Even worse, perhaps, their tunnels undermined any man-made structure, from Mandan earth lodges to military forts.
|A detail from George Caleb Bingham's painting|
This magazine is a little gem. I look forward to every issue.