Frontier Fiddler: The Life of a Northern Arizona Pioneer

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9780816511532: Frontier Fiddler: The Life of a Northern Arizona Pioneer
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A pioneer rakes brush, saws wood, drills wells, ploughs fields. His role in this world resembles that of a biblical prophet, who lays a highway in the desert, makes the crooked straight and the rough places smooth. Or, to put it in other terms, a pioneer edits the wilderness. Such a person was Kenner Kartchner, a third-generation pioneer of the American Southwest who left some quite literate memoirs. These have been lovingly preserved and edited by his grandson, Larry Shumway, in the book Frontier Fiddler. That Kartchner was a pioneer/writer and Shumway the grandson/editor are facts that determine the strength and the weakness of this book. The strength comes in the direct, image-filled prose that pioneer life seems to have bequeathed Kartchner and that descendant Shumway refuses (wisely) to obstruct. The weakness is that the pioneer work ethic often leads Kartchner to eschew self-reflection and intimacy in his prose in favor of a rather detailed employment history. This penchant sometimes results in a mass of work-related anecdotes that Shumway appears reluctant to trim where other, nonfamilial, editors might (wisely) have been more ruthless. While Kartchner revels in recalling tiny details of ranching, mining, and store clerking-his vocational pursuits-he remains tight-lipped on matters of the mind and heart. Courtship, for instance, is entirely overlooked, the only reference to it coming in the following passage, which appears after nearly two hundred pages of blow-by-blow descriptions of his work (including building a room onto the family homestead for himself and his bride): "Culminating a beautiful romance of several years standing, the wedding was set for March 25, 1908" (186).

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"Kartchner was born to a good Mormon family on the northern Arizona frontier in 1886 and lived a life full of adventure—as well as music. From 1902 until the early 1920s, his fiddle music filled Arizona dance halls where it fulfilled a vitalizing role in the lives of the people relieving the hardship of their living conditions. His memories provide firsthand observation on what life in Arizona was like during the years bridging pioneer to modern times."—Booklist

"In Frontier Fiddler, Kenner Kartchner writes about himself as a person who wove music into the cloth of his life. . . . A good read for anybody who likes old-time music and an excellent introduction to what it was like to experience old-time fiddling nearly a century ago in Arizona."—Journal of American Folklore

"Kenner Kartchner (1886-1970) was the son of a Mormon pioneer family, and Frontier Fiddler is his autobiography. . . . Written in a refreshingly unpretentious style, the book is a pleasure to read and it throws fascinating light on life and work in the Arizona and New Mexico area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries."—Folklore (England)

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