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SYMHC Classics: The Life of Johnny Appleseed

2017-09-30 | 🔗

The image of Johnny Appleseed walking around in rags, barefooted with a bindle, planting apple trees and moving on is actually pretty accurate. Join Holly and Tracy to learn how John Chapman struck out for the frontier and became an American legend.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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This is what he has. There are so many things that I find genuinely endearing about: Johnny Apples, each one of them being. There is a lot of walking in this story. So much walking and walking is one of my favorite thing before we do get started. I wanted to know that when this episode originally came out, we heard from a lot of people about our comments regarding his age when he died at the time the life expectancy was about forty, which a lot of people wrote into note is because of childhood mortality skewing that number and that's true. But if you live to age five at the time that he was alive, you still only had a life expectancy of about fifty five if so, he still really was quite old, so try to grab and apple and we'll get started. Welcome to stuff. You missed history class from Housetop works dot com
hi and welcome to the Comcast. I am Tracy Wilson and I'm calling for. I am extremely excited about who we're talking about today me to its one people. Who is a figure in american history that some people may believe incorrectly to be mythical, but was in fact real, and that is Johnny. Yeah. We learn about Amazon Elementary School kids, but we really only get a very weird brief sliver of the reality of his life. Since this river. That almost makes him a caricature of himself people imagine if, if you say, Johnny Apple seed, whether people think he's real or make believe probably gonna, imagine
a guy walking around in rags or skins. They are fitted with a sackful of apples, Eads sleeping out under the stars and planning his apple trees and then moving on will have seen the cartoons. That's how it is basically accurate. At the same time, there is a whole much broader element of his life that had nothing to do some people. Think of him as the first sort of one of the first conservationists. It's really impossible to also look at him as a very failed capitalists and we're gonna talk about that today. Its interest because he's one of those that we don't really know a whole lot about his early life. Now we do know that he was born on September. Twenty six, seventeen, seventy four in women's their message you sits and that his parents were Elizabeth, Simons, Chapman and Nathaniel Chapman. He had an older sister named Elizabeth, he also had other siblings
Eventually she had a younger brother Nathaniel and his mother died. Just a few weeks after Nathaniel was born. and then the younger Nathaniel. Sadly, the answer died cowardly way. Just after that, and that was when Johnny was, he was quite t just a toddler. Yes, it's pretty unclear Exactly where Elizabeth and John went at that point, their father was serving as one of the many men he fought it Bunker Hill, and he was not home until seventeen eighty one, so they were living someone presumably, but we don't know who it is clear that there were relatives in that part of New England. If you look back far enough into New England, his pretty much. Everyone is related to everyone at some point, so they had plenty realm. in the area where they lived, we're just not sure who wound up taking care of them until seventeen. Eighty one when dad came home from
from the service. He was released along with several other officers, with the description of unsatisfactory management of the military stores. He went home without getting a pension or land, which was often a thing when you were, when you got out of the service, you would get a pension or land that was sort of your payment. He got neither of those, but he did get a year's pay. So some people have looked at business kind of evidence that that his dad was kind shiftless rain, but at the same time the armory itself had outlived its usefulness a little bit, so it may have more like a lay off, then a firing for truly bad behaviour. Uniting always hear unsatisfactory management. We think there must have been selling dicey going on, but it really could have just been part of things kind of shutting down. There we as rain, but Nathaniel didn't remarry. You married LISA Lee and then the family lived in
meadow, which is south of Springfield Massachusetts and growing HU. It grew so much which is a little bit unfortunate, because Nathaniel was not the greatest with things like money or farming by LISA was very often pregnant and she gave birth to ten more children between seventeen eighty one in eighteen, o three, so that's ten children and twenty one and a half years. That is not in itself a surprising number of children for the era era. What is a little more surprising as if they all seem to have survived until adulthood, and they were sharing a four hundred square foot house with an attic for sleeping in the tight, it's not a lot of room, and so there at some point most likely because of a combination of water. people in a little space and they Alluring prospect of land that you could get for cheap at west and
probably not a lot of money around the House John and his younger brother Nathaniel. eleven or fifteen of time left. The dates are little unclear with either seventeen ninety two or seventeen ninety six, depending on yet the accounts very yeah, there's a lot of the accounts. We in this story, so John, was either eighteen. Twenty two you his half brother Nathaniel, was either eleven fifteen. They left Massachusetts together and travelled to Western Pennsylvania near at some point in that area. Also, there is a story it's hard to substantiate alot of this because medical records very clear at the time, but there's a story that John was kicked him ahead by a horse at age. Twenty one and that the injury was severe enough, but he had to have part of his skull were moved to relieve the pressure which is of Helen treatment for that kind of injury. But still at the time that's pretty primitive
medical yeah, I'm I'm making the scrunched of children my spine, Facebook right there are people who a tribute his later eccentricities do. Having had its injury. That makes sense in ITALY, but since it's not well documented, we can't know for sure right, However, they left, I kind of imagine, join kind of knowing it. It's too crowded in here with you, Now we have no money what we can get, some and if we go West, so let's do that year and it was you know, just beyond the Ohio River was the frontier and many people were making land grab say they knew that there was potential property to be hand, but it was very dangerous. Animal snakes, other people, like other people of every sort, this their sort of a perception that the other people threat was native Americans who were justify
ably defending their land, but also everyone here other settlers, they were trying to make their own way in trying to protect what they perceived as their opportunities, and so there also a lot of illness and injury, presumably some of them from interactions and other people, and there wasn't really much in the way local care right in addition to the fact that the medical care at the time was with often not sound from a scientific perspective. There just won a lot of doctors on the frontier. There were few people who had actual medical training, so if you got sick or hurt on the frontier new might die of something that, city, would have been more readable. Yeah me so people antigovernment word by or we land from the native Americans and then turn around and sell it for a huge profit or divided up like it was the original flipping model right and sometimes Congress a degree of businesses, the rights to divide up and go out the land for money
in exchange for residency and improvement requirements, so things lake orchards, developing orchards, yes, and that you Know- was intended to keep people from flipping from just reselling their stuff really quickly. They actually wanted development and progress and not just money turnovers, yes, apples themselves were important at a time. We think of apples today is what we eat in pines and, and just eating them and delicious things to eat. If you have ever seen the Disney Johnny Apples Eu Cartoon there is a lot of. about ways to eat. Apples eating apples was The primary concern at a time at all cider was a lot more important. There would be like little scrubby apples that were kind of bitter that would be pressed into cider or made into vinegar lot of people were planning apples and while they could be dried out and stored for the winter and serve as a sore
of nourishment that was as their primary. You knew. The primary use was cider hard, cider and apple Jack was about drunkenness, and then it is important to just take that that moment. To note that, I think we really american schoolchildren are taught like that. He sort of bread apples to the world. Look at this wonderful thing. I can bring you but in fact, ever I was trying to grow assholes the one they weren't really that wonderful. At that point they were kind of growth to eat. They did not taste very again. They were not the big juicy yummy things we finance Superman. There were lots of other apple people in a lots and lots of other orchard people, his personality and things that he did just make him Similarly memorable in the world of orchard planting in those days of the frontier, he was also just that he had a knack for figuring out where people were going to go. Next,
so he would get scenes from Pennsylvania in the winter by picking through the refugees at the side or presses. He would sort of pick through this pulpy stuff. That was left over after they made cider. He would gather up all these scenes and then he would have West and he would plants the the seeds he would use the brushy had cleared and possibly other brush to make hence to keep animals out, and then he would go away and when people made it into that territory that year the following year, there would already be apple, seedlings growing on the land which they could buy from Chapman. So here astute in that regard, it will supersede in that regard, had he hang So we turn that into a business and went away. Did turn it into a bit. Late was sort of his business model, but he didn't really care about money an apple making model that money making not right. He he gave a lot of
lings away. Basically, if you were moving onto land that you were hoping to make your own and you could not afford your apple seedlings Johnny opposite would give them to you. He also, if you saw horses that were being mistreated, he would buy them from you and then put them out pasture. So indeed he was very dear, he just I read a book that will talk more about at the end of the podcast. In this and and rider compared him to Andrew Carnegie accepted who Carnegie amassed wealth and then gave it away and Johnny apples. He just gave away all the wealth as he got it, so he never actually had a light because he was giving at all no accumulation of charming but not really effective if your goal is actually to own anything, which apparently was his goal so If it wasn't go ahead and do it very well, we don't really know his exact route through that part, we sort of no generally, that he went from New York into Pennsylvania and
started moving into a higher in Indiana. Several people have tried to kind of recreate the the route that he followed with varying success. There is not a lot of actual documentation. arriving about his life at the time. Well, and even the documentation is largely based on word of mouth, so its accuracy is non verifiable. It's it's! Yes! some cases. We know that the people who were supplying these oral accounts were not necessarily all that trustworthy as historians. This episode of stuff you missed in history, glasses, brought. You buy Norton three sixty with lifelong. Let's just say your shopping online with yours
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the Norton dot com, slash history, that's Norton, DOT, com, slash history for twenty five percent off, because a lot of the travel it he was doing was ahead of the influx of settlers. They want really roads. It would be a sort of hard going a lot the actual written detail that we have comes from trading post, ledgers and one of the first of these is in seventeen. Ninety seven in wine, Pennsylvania, at which point John and Annual, were recorded to be there to buy things with some of the things that he bought included a spite gimlet, which is a tool that he could have used for all kinds of things out on the frontier with a very multi use tool. He also bought books. Cheese and sundry is an trillion aimed at three ass, your given that Europe
energy is man. If I had books and cheese I would be set so yet he that's when we know that he was in weren't at that time there are other trading post, Ledger, Rick records of of his movements, but not enough to really piece together. This is exactly how he travelled and when- and there is some belief that his first orchard was she near Maremma, Alleghany River Warren was very small, not having great luck. A storm had knocked down all the trees fire burned up, all the dead wood And then the relationship between the settlers in the native Americans in area got really hostile. It was not really the most welcoming or perfect place race at all. There was pretty much one person living there, when they got there, that was Dan, Mackay or MC way. He worked for the HOLLAND Company, which is one of the agencies that was dividing up and selling off land
He may have employed the Chapman brothers to kind of guard the land against squatters and timber thieves, but a little unclear whether he was actually working for this man or or if they just knew each other, but according to writings of lancing. What more and the warring ledger? John eventually picked a location for a nursery and and he ninety eight. This is another example of we don't really know how accurate this person's report once he was a and a judge and was pretty well respected at the time, but he was also really fond of a good story. And we know from other accounts that there are things that he got completely wrong. So it discredits his egg discredits I'm a little feeling a little bit, but probably the first Orchard that Johnny apples. Planet was near wine sometime around seventy ninety eight, so oh, we know, Johnny wanted
land and he did by plenty of lamb, but he didn't stay on it to fulfil the terms of his claims or claim jumpers got in there and took it from him right too. He had skill and ino acumen for paintings, but so much with the patient. Now he didn't stick through with things he would sign. Ninety nine year, leases on stuff and then either not pay the bills or not. Fulfil the residency requirements to keep at least so there he didn't of getting land and then land would fall out of his hands. He was also choosing the hardest way to grow apples. the an easier way to grow apples is too graft cuttings of apples onto route stock and that's pretty much how apple cultivation happens now what he was doing, because he felt that it was kind or on the plants and that it was in fact wicked to cut at plants to graff them on two things. What he was doing, this planting seeds. That is there's a number of reasons why that is not the best way to cultivate apples yeah
I mean I have done some apple seedlings and they are difficult and they don't fruit, often very rail, for the long time they tend. grow, so big that it's hard to harvest from them and it takes them- are very long time to actually put out apples and an apple that may do put out. It's really a mix of what you're gonna get apple. Seeds are pretty cool because their heterozygous, so they have the code, the genetic code for all kinds of different apples in one scene. You don't really know which of those genes are gonna express when the trees growing there,
you, might plant seeds from a delicious apple and get disgusting apples. Yet there are so many factors that go into something like that from like the soil, p age. You know what kind of winters in summers it has when its young leg, if it has a drought, that'll effect what is produced. So it is it's a very unpredictable and difficult way to get free right when about on the other side of that seeds are a lot more flexible and when you can plant them, you can really only after the spring, but you can plant seeds sort of nine months out of a year and because of what we said before, there's little bitter, very tough tart apples were in high demand for making vinegar and cider, and also those things were in demand because vinegar was considered to be medicinal and because out on the frontier, there was not a lot to do. People were very interests, in drinking, so it didn't matter so much if you produce delicious forget to now this as long as you producing something that could be used in some way. Maybe
Nigger cider, yes, so some he sold as you In sum he gave away. I also wonder going back to his various pieces of property, how many people just inherited veto developed apple Russia, because it has never went ass. He just abandon this. The spot yeah There are a lot of records that survive, whether it's because bookkeeping with sloppy or just you know time his kind of erased some of the german documents, but the oral history is pretty unanimous in that. If you couldn't afford trees, he would just give them to you. Yes, and the lack of records is a problem in terms of tracking many things. You know his sale of ceilings. His land is forfeits of the land.
Night, and this is getting into some interesting elements of the story. He was actually a minister or a missionary of the church, New Jerusalem. Yes, the church of the new Jerusalem as a church that people may not have heard of now. it, was also known as the new church, and it was based on swedish men mystic, annual Swedenborg, who was a popular religious figure for about a hundred years following his death in seventeen. Seventy two, the Swedenborg Sect, was really intellectual He wrote volumes and volumes in volumes about his divine revelations and his spiritual thought he was very specific about things. A lot of religious writing can
kind of general. In describing what God is like or what Heaven is like an, he was really down to the details and described his religious visions in extreme detail, and he was also very influential. Some of the notable people who were influenced by him include William Blake Chart, both Gerda colleague, Karl Young, William Butler Yeats, Walt Whitman, who I love and Emerson, so that he was a very influential writer at the time he had a really strong streak of intellectual, is on his way. That was founded on his teachings, which was known as the new church had sort of areas of the United States. That was developing at the time that they were. That was extremely popular and was also very different from a lot the other church going. That was happening on the frontier, which was much more about tat, revivals and that sort of thing- and this was a much think- you're sort of religion and Tonia
seed, embraced it. He really. He actually started preaching the new church teachings while he traveled about when he was in Ohio and he would take shelter with people, he would bring them the Good NEWS straight from Heaven. Yes, in eighteen. Twenty nine of fundamentalist preacher Adam pain actually asked ground. Where is your barefoot pilgrim now and John Chapman syndrome, eggs at unkempt, hair, held up a foot and said here, which is so charming that sort of sample of the intersection between the more tent revival. Ask religion that was pretty cool a lot about area, the timing and then John Chapman. He was really an outsider and a loner and not like that at all. He also heed. We was not operating in isolation that the new church knew that He was around and knew that he was spreading their teachings because he appears and reports of the future.
and in other writings, from the church, starting in around eighteen seventeen, so he was unknown figure to the church. As part of this whole religious focused, he was a vegetarian and he was celibate, as in our recent episode about Marjorie Camp, though he did have spiritual relationships with people who were not physically present, so he was having what we're gonna call a spiritual intercourse with the spirits of two deceased women who were too, he was told in a vision that they were gonna, be his companions in the afterlife. This is also something that Sweden Board read about in his
sittings yeah. Apparently, he had apparently hoped to propose to Nancy Tina Hell, but she was already engage. Yes, just one of those stories that exists about his life. That is sort of one person's word, and we don't really know if that's true story, but we do know that he he never got married. He was reported to be celebrate for his whole life. I dont know if, if the Nancy ten Hell story is a true story or not, but it is a thing somebody said about him at one point. Yet it's a side note. Yes, in the story of his relations with women and with his religion since those all sort of they contradict each other a little bit yes and now we're getting to an era that is often talked about in history, but not necessarily relation him, which is a war of eighteen, twelve. Yes, he was really skilled at walking like that's walking with something aim just great at and he was reported to often not wear shoes and he walked so much that his feet
leather, like calices, and because he was so good at walkin around and because he knew the territory so well. Settlers sometimes would hire him to kind of keep an eye on things, as tensions were starting to grow, leading up to the war of eighteen, twelve at least one time he either falsely or mistakenly, raised the alarm about incoming troops who were going to attack when it they were actually at american troops tubes, in spite of that, or maybe as the story had not reached where he was. He did have a very Paul reveres ride, ask race for help that he reportedly undertook in September of eighteen, twelve, a colonel Colonel cracker was going to remove the native american population from Southwest Ohio, he convinced
preacher named James Compass, who the native Americans their trusted to help him move them like remove them from their homes. He did this by saying that he didn't want bloodshed. He just wanted to take these people under the protection of the government at the the reverend believed him and am convinced that the people in his one village to move the response of the colonels tree- then was to set their homes on fire, and this sparked a lot of problems. Understandably, because that was a terrible thing to do their work. The revenge on both sides, it's kind of a long and drawn out story, but there was in that one side would ambush another side and, on the other side would retaliate and then on an an unfortunate fall out from that a young person would wind at being killed. It's a very kind of convoluted story, but it became clear that things were getting very bad and that a full scale attack was incoming
and people were very worried and whirling, basically like. We need backup and Johnny Apple seed volunteered to be that backup to go backup according to the law, or he ran bareheaded and barefooted, leaving at sunset and running through the night running a distance that was effectively Holly might knew not how hard that would be. It's actually more likely that he was on horse, but the story is that he was on foot running the story is that he was on foot running and he would he's the alarm at farms and homesteads that he passed on the way we, as he ran to Fort at Mount Vernon to get help and to raise the alarm. This whole story probably has a fair amount of time. Spent mythology has definitely been without, as it does, appear to be a historic thing that actually have been. Probably he was not running on foot the whole time, but that really started to solidify
him as a mythic figure, even at the time, not just now, even though now that that's a story that maybe people outside of that region of the United States have heard about, but he was becoming a mythic figure, even while he was alive. While there was probably aided by the fact that he was alive it. As you said kind of an fellow, he wasn't really a mainstream society kind of guy. So he already had a bit of a mistake in all likelihood that combined with some of these sort of amazing tales of his doing right, that really is fertile ground to create a mythology around Yes, he was very odd and very memorable and usually that, because of this, I don't have moving around, he would mean into a place before a lot of people were there. He would do things that were memorable and then the population would start to move into this area where he previously had been
and had already made a name for himself and they would sort of here these Johnny Apples stories. So he had a pretty huge reputation in the era in which he lived and in the years afterward, and that has continued today, people don't necessarily noughties their aspects of em, but they ve been. Most people have heard of Johnny apples before you and I mean he's, got the name: Johnny ample seed and lived on shipments and right this episode of stuff. You miss than history classes, Brass EU by W W, formerly wait. Watchers they launched a new might be to be programme as their most groundbreaking and customize programme. Ever I joined Debbie W because I was really looking for something that was going to help encourage means. You make healthier eating choices. They have really done that when you join them W W program, you will take a personal assessment. It ask questions you're eating habits in your behaviors minute, scientifically matches you up with which plan is going to be the best for you. I'm on the
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baby you're, so we don't really know if he was on good terms with his family when he died. We don't really know if he had any close relationships at that point, but he did die peacefully but of illness at the age of seventy, I'm at the home of William Worth in his almost north of Fort waned Indiana. It was in March of eighteen, forty five, the official accounts abbot, I'm kind of vary in their specific dates, but generally recognised at some time. In the middle of March, the cause was known as winter plague and that what sort of a catch all term for various diseases that people tended to get more in the way her. There was an obituary that ran on March twenty second eighteen, forty five and fourteen sentinel, and what is kind of striking to me about his death at the age of seventy is the life expectancy of the time was a little over forty.
So he was very, very old yet when he passed away so not at all a surprising that a man of that advanced age would succumb to winter plague, Emmy we'd know even in modern times the elderly. Are you know at greater risk of even in a pretty minor illnesses, the younger people could lives through so to events These pretty impressive right, especially when you consider that he spent most of his time wandering around in the woods I mean it was a lake lived, a life of luxury and comfort, with every passing oh you know, cleanliness applied to a universal and not even luxury in comfort, but just basic medical care and having a home. He didn't really have any of that. He did own some things when he died and among his his effects. After his death, he had a grey mayor, several parcels of land, an orchard of two thousand apple trees and various other things. Some of the land got sold off to pay it back taxes on that land because he,
not paid it, which is not surprising and then the remainder of his possessions were sold off for a total of four hundred and nine dollars, which would come to about nine thousand dollars today, but pretty all of that money went to paying off various things that he had owed during his life. Some of these claims might have been true, and some of them might have been false, but there were people who claims to live provided him remembered and his later life. He definitely as as his Emma was kind of get land plant things and leave. He definitely did o money on things so by the time all
that was was taking care of. There was really no money left in the John Jasmines lash Johnny. I will see to state, yet he had no fiscal legacy to speak of. It is interesting, I think, that the o bitchy weary from the church did not appear until two years after him die ass. It was much later interesting and I dont think we know why it took so long now that if we do, I did not find that, unless it's just a matter of things taking a while to get back to them right in here, Other interesting thing about him, which sort of I also find. Oddly endearing, he did a little bit of self mythology arising in promoting it, of his master. He was but obviously a loner and someone who likes to talk to people. So he did talk to people and he talked people about himself. He liked to enter
little children. He would entertain little boys by like poking pins into his crazy calloused feet and, and he likes to give presents to two children like he was a person who, in beard himself to others. People generally liked him a lot, but the way that he talked about himself was often exhort of selective like him. He didn't really talk about his many many failed purchases of land. You know he talked about being vegetarian and spreading the word of God and and planting apple trees and and so he had sort of main himself into an easily mythology. Ized person before he became a sort of mythic character in american history. Even at the time there were people pretty well known people, you sort of eulogized him either in in speeches or in print. There was a reported you eulogy by SAM Houston, who was a senator. That is a little bit suspect. We're not sure if that really happened at the time.
Before William T. Sherman is one of the people who allegedly spoke very highly of Johnny Apple, see later on is also a lot of reports that he had a really good relationship with many of the native american tribes in the frontier, even when those tribes were really at odds with the settlers, and that is one of those oral history, things that we don't really have written substantiation of that that sort of the aura that he had was, which was that he was friendly with everyone, even when the people he was friendly. We're not friendly with one another well, and I think that either could be that you get into a chicken or the thing where its leg is. That was that, because he was always sort of apart from
We want to some degree that she was an anti social, but he wasn't really, as we said part of me, no social group regularly, so he can kind of operate between those two, because he he didn't have obvious allegiance to anyone right or I mean did he perpetrate than you know, continue that behaviour, because he recognised that it official. We don't know yes, there was also the part about how he did seem to you in a lot of ways because he was not exploiting land. He was. He was sort of tending trees and not wanting to harm things and not wanting to harm animals. There is the idea that he had a good relationship with other cultures that also had a similar mentality. It's kind of a misperception that the entirety of native american history was all about conserving the land, but that that definitely was a thread in some tribes and so that sort of a commonality
we had with other people also, that may have continued to be all kinds of other writings about Johnny Apple seen there was an article in harbours, new monthly, about him in eighteen. Seventy one that was extremely lengthy. He the subject of the poem in praise of Johnny Apple, seen by bachelor envy and nineteen twenty three, but has also been in various other poems and films. Disney has a thing from nineteen. Forty, eight, that's about John Apples eat. Ninety percent of it is just wrong. It's completely wrong. It's one of the things figures prominently in it is that he wore a soft spot on his head is a hat. There is actually one historical, count if I'm wearing Threeg things on his head as hats simultaneously in the middle of them was a saucepan, but I dont think he wore a saucepan his income, practice? So if you're not really good area animation purposes is a delightful thing watch, but it is so incorrect in so many ways there
our apple apples surviving that are probably descended from apple trees that he planted apple trees. Don't live hundreds of years, but because people propagate apple trees by grafting, things, those graphs, our clones of the trees that they were cut off of. So there are some trees and existence that that probably came from ones that he planted, but a lot of the orchards that we're credited to him as far as starting them were burned down during the temperance move. It movement because, as we said, apples at the time wherefore drinking not for eating not as a delightful natures, candy treat so yet Johnny. I fancied. I had no idea of either the depths of his religious devotion,
with whom the sort of Paul Revere Like run. I didn't know if either of these two things when I started researching this punk ass, a kind of can't stop thinking about whether or not he actually ran that, because there are people that can run that went to meet their ultra marathon hers out there, yes, and if he was wandering around five minutes profitable. Yes, I read the book. Johnny apples eat the man. The myth of the american story by Howard means, as part of my research for this by cast. There is so much more information about him and about the time in that book than we have gone into today, but one of the things that had talks about his people trying to this determines whether that run was possible to have done on foot and they answer a sort of, maybe so yeah. So it makes sense of ever be sitting here. He could have done it name
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