23rd June

Back in the late 80s I walked the Appalachian Trail in America and while hiking it I met up with three others guys, all American. Nothing was heard about this for many years until one of them wrote a book about it last year called 10,000 steps, in which I feature briefly and not in ways that I totally remember, but there it is. However I have just received an email saying that he is now going to finish a novel about the Wild West (which I do not appear in!) But it made me dig out a book written by my great uncle. Now my grandfather was much older than my grandmother when they got married, so he was born in the 1860s. My Great Uncle Jim was one of his many younger brothers and he went to America to try his fortune in the 1880s. He was on a ranch in Texas (not a big one, there are pictures of it in the book and it looks hardly bigger than a chicken hut) far out in west Texas beyond Abilene. The book is pretty boring and his opinions about the native Americans and others are not exactly what we would hope for today. But there are some early pictures and accounts of cattle herding and branding, as you might expect, which are interesting. People in the family have his gun and his fast-disintegrating chaps. He did not have many takers for the book so my grandfather paid for it to be published in a little publishers in Tiverton in Devon, near where they lived, with the rather grand title ‘The Unvarnished West.’ Copies are unsurprisingly rare and even less surprisingly not valuable. But looking at the dates again it just struck me that we were in America exactly 100 years apart, which does not mean much, but is just one of those odd things.

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