☀ You can borrow and read Little Big Man free below. ☀
If you want politically correct, this book may not be for you — but it is historical fiction, and satire, of a high order, based on carefully researched facts.
Little Big Man is in the form of a memoir told to a writer by a 111-year-old man, Jack Crabb. Author Thomas Berger* has an appealing writing style, and the book is smart and funny, and Crabb’s life is so fascinating, it’s easy to just read on and on and on….
seeing “the Indian question” from both sides
Crossing the frontier by wagon around the time of the California gold rush, ten-year-old Crabb is taken from his family and adopted by a Cheyenne Indian chief, who calls him Little Big Man. He lives a lot of adventures as an Indian, and then later switches to the life of a white man, where he meets many luminaries of the old West. In this example, Jack’s brother Bill, a saloonkeeper, has just been caught out for keeping rattlesnake heads in his whiskey kegs:
“They don’t hurt none,” says Bill in whining indignation. “They just put the old be-Jesus into the stuff. The boys like the bite of my goods.”
“Get out,” says the skinny fellow. “And you men step aside and let him do it.” And by God, if they didn’t; I don’t know why, for he didn’t look special to me, but he had some of the assurance of Custer and Hickok, if not the long hair.
The skinner rejoined me and says: “Did you ever see the like of that?” Meaning my brother, and being under some strain, I just belched. The sight of them snake heads had got to me, though I never touched a drop of the rot gut.
The skinny fellow walked quickly to me and staring coldly from under his straight black eyebrows, says: “You have an objection?”
I allowed I did not, but I also requested he state a reason why in the goddam hell he thought I might.
“You just spoke my name,” he says.
“I don’t know your name,” says I.
“It,” he says, “is Earp.”
“Oh,” I says, laughing, “what I done was belch.”
He knocked me down.
Many years later, the girl Amanda that he had rescued from a brothel prepares to marry a senator’s son:
Putting aside her formerly lofty tone, she says: “You never really believed I was your niece by blood? Because if you did, I would honestly feel awful.”
You know how you can go along in life for years without facing essential matters of this type. Absolute definitions generally make a person feel worse. I’ve known heavy drinkers who have survived for years merely by not admitting they was confirmed drunkards. I expect you thought back a ways when I commenced my association with Amelia that I believed in our blood-relationship on mighty flimsy evidence; that a girl in her position would say anything a customer wanted to hear; that playing the role of my niece was a hell of a lot easier profession that the one from which I had reclaimed her.
These considerations was not unknown to me. But look here: the kind of life I had lived, I had earned a right to say who was or wasn’t my kin. Every real family I had ever possessed had been tore away from me by disaster. I got to figuring the natural relationships was jinxed for me, and when little Amelia offered herself, I accepted forthwith and believed the privilege was all mine.
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