Beyond the Missouri:The Story of the American West

by Richard W. Etulain, Univ. of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 2006, $39.95 cloth, $24.95 paperback.

Trying to tell the story of the American West in one volume is like trying to tell your life story to a member of the opposite sex in a crowded, noisy bar. In other words, it’s impossible to say everything you want to say, and you inevitably leave out important details while also leaving a few false impressions. In these 466 pages, though, author Richard W. Etulain provides a fresh, sober (but not depressingly revisionist) perspective that will delight general readers and even specialists.

Etulain, a history teacher for nearly 40 years and now professor emeritus of history at the University of New Mexico, deals with the region from North Dakota to Texas and west to the Pacific Coast states. He covers a lot of ground, geographically and chronologically, from Paleo-Indians (such as Folsom Man and Clovis people) in what would become New Mexico to gamblers, tourists and new residents in booming modern-day Las Vegas (the one in Nevada, not New Mexico). Along the way, we meet natives who never met Europeans, Spanish explorers, French traders, British adventurers, American pathfinders, missionaries, mountain men, Mormons, miners, ranchers, farmers, fighting men, women pioneers and city folk. Such Western icons as gunfighters, lawmen and Indian chiefs do not receive special consideration; they are relatively small parts of the complex, ever-changing American West.

 

Originally published in the June 2007 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here