Distinctly Montana published my article”Yankee Jim Tangles With Rudyard Kipling” in its Winter 2016 issue. It’s a rib-tickling tale about how sparks flew when the Nobel winning English author encountered the crusty old Indian fighter who ran a toll road on the way to Yellowstone Park in 1889.
The erudite young Englishman said he thought he might match Yankee Jim’s talent for telling tall tales, but he had to admit he’d met his match.
“Yankee Jim,” Kipling said, “saw everyone of my tales and went 50 better on the spot. He dealt in bears and Indians — never less than 20 of each; had known the Yellowstone country for years, and bore on his body marks of Indian arrows; and his eyes had seen a squaw of the Crow Indians burned alive at the stake. He said ‘she screamed considerable.’”
Yankee Jim found out about the description of him when a newspaper publisher sent him a copy of Kipling’s 1900 book, From Sea to Sea, which described the author’s around-the-world travels. He was not pleased.
In 1902 a young travel writer named Lewis Ransom Freeman, who had read Kipling’s book, decided stop by Yankee Jim’s cabin and ask him to retell the story about burning the Indian woman. Jim was enraged.
“Young man, do I look like a man who would let a woman — white or Indian — be burned at the stake before me?” he demanded. “Why my old Colt would have shot someone all of itself at such an outrage”
After I read Freeman’s story, I looked up Kipling’s version and researched both men. Then I braided together an account of the fiery encounter and published it in the summer 2012 issue of The Pioneer Museum Quarterly. Valerie Harms, the editor of Distinctly Montana, saw the Quarterly article and asked me for a condensed version.
Although you can read the Distinctly Montana version on the link above, I urge to you buy the magazine. It’s easier to read, and the illustration looks much better. You could get a copy of the longer version by buying a copy of summer 2012 issue of The Pioneer Museum Quarterly (since renamed The Gallatin History Museum Quarterly) at the Gallatin History Museum, 317 West Main, in Bozeman, MT.
If you’d like to read more about Yankee Jim or Rudyard Kipling, you can find a lot by searching for their names on this blog site. One of my favorites is Lewis Ransom Freeman’s “Crashing through Yankee Jim Canyon on a Wooden Boat.”
— Distinctly Montana illustration by Rob Rath.