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Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Friends, Lewis and Clark

I’m reading the “Journals of Lewis and Clark, 1804-1806”.  Like most everyone who went through the American public education system, I had heard about this exploration in the context of two guys being commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the new land acquisition; the Louisiana purchase.  Their goal, to get the Pacific Ocean.

I knew the exploration started somewhere in the Midwest and dead-ended at the Pacific Ocean where they did an about face and headed back to where they started.   I didn't even think much more about this event until now.

It started when I received an Amazon Kindle and one of the free books available on the Kindle is the Journals of Lewis and Clark.  I downloaded the book because now that I am older and wiser, it sounded it interesting.

What amazed me about reading this journal is that it doesn't read like an adventure at all. It is boring!  For some reason I thought these guys were closer to action figures than regular guys, but based on the journal, they seemed so normal.   And dull.

Their journal entries are almost the same every day; a weather report, some reference to latitude and longitude, and whether anyone killed any animal so they could have meat for dinner. (yawn)

There were also several entries about health problems (this I thought was interesting).

But for the most part, it is a yawner.  It is hard to believe this book was a best seller in the 1800's, but it was.
I then started to relate the entries to the entries I personally make on Facebook.  I then realized that what I write about on Facebook, things like “boy it is hot today”, or  “I'm living on the edge and eating tofu today" are very similar to the entries William Clark was making in his journal!  We were both commenting about our daily life, mood swings, and tasks.  (One of the big differences between us is that I have spell check and he obviously did not.  William couldn't spell at all. Oh, and another big difference is that he was on assignment of discovery in a land with no written records. Me? Well,  I'm in California.  Enough said).

So now I was starting to relate to the guys as people I know.  I could now see Merriweather Lewis and William Clark as being people who were more like me and my friends.  They were guys who would report out each day on what kind of day they had, where they were, what they did, and what they ate.  Just like me and my Facebook friends.   

So since their daily adventurers are NOT updated each day on Facebook, I decided to "friend" them in the only way possible right get to know more about them.  I wanted to understand who they were so their dull and boring journal entries would become more alive and interesting.  

So here is a summary of who these guys were:
Merriweather Lewis was only 29 and a CAPTAIN in the army when he began this adventure.  The photo I have seen over and over again shows him as a guy with gray hair. Obviously, during this adventure, he was rather young...he was still in his 20's.  He must have also been brave and smart, and must have demonstrated superb leadership skills in his young life since he had been personally assigned by the President, Thomas Jefferson, to lead this important expedition.

William Clark was the older dude.  He was 33.  He had also been in the army but had resigned when he was 26 due to poor health.  Immediately I wanted to know his medical history and how he got out of the army for poor health.  My mind started to analyze his heath history based on what I read in the journal and I am guessing it is due to headaches. He recorded a lot of headaches in the journal.

So,  now I have a better idea of who they were.  In my mind I have “friended” them.  I can now read those daily trivial reports of where they were (latitude and longitude) and may decide to check out the location on Google maps to see if there is anything interesting near by.  

When I read in the journal that a deer was killed, I will know it means they were able to have dinner that night and I will "Like" that entry because it means they were able to have a full tummy that day.  

I'll also recognize that when a corporal breaks in and steals the whiskey and gets 50 lashes with a whip on his back, I'll recognize it is because whiskey is the only currency they have to trade and is also probably the only medicine they have for the trip.  Whiskey is their lifeline.

I will also recognize that at times when they are fighting, they probably deserve to be cranky.  They are tired, dirty, stinky, hungry, thirsty, and don't know what is around the corner.

I am now ready to re-read this two year adventure from a new point of view.  I am now seeing them as my "Friends".

My new buddies, Merriweather and William, are setting out on a voyage to find the Pacific Coast.  They are beginning their journey at 4:00 pm (in the afternoon??! at the end of the day??)  They know there are NO CONVENIENCE STORES, NO BATHROOMS, NO HOTELS and this territory is full of people they don't know and who have huge cultural differences from them, including not speaking their language.  The probability of getting lost or killed is pretty high, and yet they are still going.

Oh, and there is also no map...they get to create the map as they go along.

 This is definitely an adventure!