Saturday, January 24, 2015

Kentucky: The Mammoth Park of the World

Kentucky: The Mammoth Park of the World
Samuel Haycraft

It appears that no tribe of Indians were settled permanently in Kentucky. It was, by common consent of all the Indians, reserved as a hunting ground; the dark and bloody ground it was called in their emphatic mode of pronunciation "Cain-tuck-ee" and it was a grand idea. People may talk of great parks, the Central Park of New York, the famous parks of France; but look at Kentucky, in all her grandeur, as the mammoth park of the world; see her gigantic forests, her mountains, the deep blue rivers that flow over her bosom, her vine-clad hills and valleys, her almost impenetrable canebreaks, her flowery plains and her brilliant skies. Then see her immensity in the game line; the ponderous buffaloes which traversed the land in innumerable herds, grazing upon the plains of endless meadows of nature's own modeling. In summer quenching their thirst at the beautiful clear streams and in winter browsing on the cane, always fat. Then the beautiful deer to be seen in droves, bounding actively and gracefully over the plains and hills. Then the majestic elk with his tremendous horns, his bold front and large glossy eyes, as he proudly snuffs the wind or story, and stamps his feet defiantly at his antagonist, or an intruding animal. Then the clumsy, fat bear and lesser game, such as the rabbit, the squirrel, the oppossum. Then the glossy plumed fowls; the proud wild turkey, who strutted and scraped the ground with his wings, bowed his neck and gobbled, "radical, radical, radical" as he led his troupe of dependants along in winter and spring. Then the grouse, pheasant, partridge, wild goose, wild duck, and smaller birds and warblers that filled the air with music and song. Then resorting to the streams, the multitude of the finny tribe that sported at pleasure, were taken with the hook or net to satiate the varied taste of man. These things, with the native grapes, berries and fruits that abound everywhere, made such a magnificant park and hunting ground as never existed before, and most likely, never will again; and added to all the useful game, in order to give variety and intermix a slight element of fear, there was a small addition of the wild panther, the wild cat, the wolf, and, as botherations, the fox, raccoon, groundhog, mink, weasel, etc. Kentucky was the land of promise, the earthly paradise of the Indian; and it is no wonder that they resisted to the knife, any intruder who might wish to settle down upon their beautiful estate. Now that the forests are leveled, farms are opened, cities are built, and elegant country houses erected, and with lightning speed this beautiful land is traversed by railroad cars and steamboats, yet it is a matter of speculation, whether Kentucky has not lost by being shorn of her native grandeur.

Samuel Haycraft, "History of Elizabethtown, Kentucky and Its Surroundings" (1869; rpt. 1921)

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