Kit Carson Plugs Drunk Bully to Win Singing Grass: Lewis Lapham

Mountain man Kit Carson was small -- just 5 feet 4 inches in his boots -- but fearless enough to take on the hulking French-Canadian drunk Joseph Chouinard. They charged each other on horseback, and in the ensuing gunfight, Carson shot and disabled the “great bully of the mountains.”

Born in Kentucky, Carson quit school at age 8 when his father died. Apprenticed to a saddler at 14, he soon ran away to find his fortune in the West as a trapper, explorer, guide and soldier.

Mountain men often married local American Indians. Adding to the hostility between Chouinard and Carson was that both were wooing the lovely Arapaho maiden Singing Grass.

After defeating his rival, Carson won her hand in marriage by paying her father, Running Around, three mules and a gun.

These exploits made Kit Carson famous in his own time, and he starred in such dime novels as “The Fighting Trapper: Kit Carson to the Rescue.” Later, his enduring legend sold comic books, films and television shows.

I spoke with Eric Jay Dolin, author of “Fur, Fortune and Empire” (Norton), on the following topics:

1. Pelts Save the Pilgrims

2. Guns & Alcohol

3. Raucous Fur Rendezvous

4. Death Knell for the Mountain Men

5. Contemporary Fur Trading

Source: W. W. Norton & Company via Bloomberg

The cover art of "Fur, Fortune and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America." The book is the latest by Eric Jay Dolin. Close

The cover art of "Fur, Fortune and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in... Read More

Close
Open
Source: W. W. Norton & Company via Bloomberg

The cover art of "Fur, Fortune and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America." The book is the latest by Eric Jay Dolin.

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at lhl@laphamsquarterly.org.

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.