A Real PioneerPosted: June 29, 2010
I was born in the wrong century.
I want to be a pioneer. I want to migrate west into a wild land with a caravan of Conestoga wagons and sleep under the stars at night. I want to sit around a campfire, get lulled to sleep by the smell of woodsmoke, the sound of the blaze crackling, and the light and shadows thrown about by fingers of flames.
I want a horse. I want to ride my horse over rocky trails and kick up dust, through creeks, up and down hills, pushing against the wind, alongside covered wagons, going to new land. I pretend my bike is a horse when I ride down Deering and then on the dirt and rocky edge of blacktop Third Avenue. My seat is whiskey colored leather, like a saddle, and I think I feel it shifting side to side between my sweaty legs, and I move with it much like I remember doing on the bare back of Dixie, Grandpa’s mare.
I check out every biography in the public library about pioneer women—Abigail Adams, Betsy Ross, Louisa May Alcott, Clara Barton, Nancy Todd Lincoln. The books have hardback blue covers and a yellow swirl around the title. I like how the older ones have softened with use and are easy to hold wide open, their pages bookmarked and worn at the edges. I am hungry for stories about women who take a stand, women who ride horses and cook over an open fire, women who make life better.
I should be one of those women. I should be a pioneer. After all, I am in the family of the most famous pioneer in the world. I’m a Boone.
I’m kin to Daniel Boone.
My grandmother was Anna Bell Boone, and she was born and raised in Kentucky, where Daniel Boone blazed trails through the wilderness and fought Indians and created new settlements. She was born in Maysville, in 1886, exactly one hundred years after Daniel Boone helped establish it.
She played a harmonica and sang “My Old Kentucky Home.” She ate rhubarb and dandelion leaves. She was a sharpshooter. She could stand in her living room, shoot a rabbit out the front door, and cook it for supper.
Daniel had a favorite cousin in Pennsylvania named Jacob Boone. Jacob had served in the Revolutionary War. He was the son of Joseph Boone, Jr., who was a brother of Squire Boone, Daniel’s father.
It just so happens that Jacob Boone is my fourth great grandfather.
When Jacob’s father died, Daniel went to Pennsylvania from Kentucky and talked Jacob’s widow and some of her children into moving to Kentucky. So in the fall of 1785, the Boone family wintered on the Monongahela River at the mouth of the Sewickley, built a flatboat, and floated down the Ohio River in the spring of 1786 to Limestone, Kentucky, so named before it became Maysville.
One night, when I was full of the migrating spirit of my ancestors, I put a candle on the floor beside my bed. I asked Mama if I could do it, and she said no, but I did it anyway because I wanted to. My bed was twelve inches from the wall, and I put the candle back there so Mama couldn’t see it from the doorway. I struck a match to it, then went to sleep, staring at the flicker. Mama said “something” woke her in the middle of the night and reminded her that I’d asked about a candle. She wouldn’t do it, Mama thought. Would she? Yes, she would. Mama found the candle flaming two inches from a ruffle on my tiered blue bedspread.
“You could’ve burned your whole bed up with you in it,” Mama said. “And burned your sister up, too.”
“I just wanted to be a pioneer,” I said, thinking that should get her off my back. Besides, Mama was the one who encouraged me to read all those pioneer books, and she was the one born Boone. But she just shook her head like she was disgusted and curled up one side of her mouth and shot frowns over at me. She told me how stubborn I was, and how much like my father.
Anyway, I got to sleep by firelight, like a pioneer, and it didn’t take much imagination to pretend I was out in the wilderness under a starlit sky, especially since Mama had stuck luminous stars to the ceiling in my bedroom.
My fourth great grandfather Jacob Boone helped Daniel Boone survey the town of Maysville and was one of its first trustees. He ran a tavern and ferry. He was the interpreter between the colonel of the Army and the Indian chiefs and warriors. He built a house on Front Street and lived there till he died.
Jacob Boone is buried in the Old Pioneer Cemetery behind the Maysville Historical Museum.
I really am in a real pioneer family.