I’ve just finished reading Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War, by T. J. Stiles. A fascinating book, it describes the Missouri/Kansas border of the 1860s-1870s with the same level of horror as 1990s Kosova/Kosovo.
I know the area well. Catherine grew up in Liberty, and her mother still lives on Franklin Street, the site of the 1866 raid on the Clay County Savings Association by a gang including Arch Clement and the James brothers. The James family made their home in Kearney, the town which used to have my favourite diner, Clem’s Café.
After the civil war, veterans returned home with their weapons, and used them to settle old scores. Stiles makes the point that carrying handguns was rare before the war, so this is a possible root of the US’s gun crime problem.
But what struck me most was the amazing names that cropped up in the book: Adelbart Ames, Delos T. Bligh, Schuyler Colfax, Alvis Dagley, W. L. Earthman, Aber Gilstrap, Odon Guitar, Nimrod L. Long, Zerelda Mimms, Sidney G. Sandusky (who, coincidentally, built the house in Liberty that Catherine grew up in), Theodrick Snuffer, Flourney Yancey, and my favourite, Greenup Bird. You just don’t get names like that any more. These are solid names, they’ll see a lifetime through.