Bookworm: Back to nature before doomsday

Terri Schlichenmeyer
“The Pioneers” author David McCullough.

“The Pioneers”

  • By David McCullough
  • c. 2019, Simon & Schuster
  • $30, $39.99 Canada; 332 pages

Your destination this summer is somewhere you’ve never been before. You want to be surprised and delighted, to see things, experience activities, and try foods that are all new to you. You’re thinking of a good pampering, perhaps, with spas and shopping. Or maybe, as in “The Pioneers” by David McCullough, you’ll be roughing it, sans campers, roads, medicine, RVs, or decent boots.

More:Bookworm: Murderous thinking; living a lie

The Reverend Manasseh Cutler saw an opportunity.

As a former army chaplain, he knew that the British had ceded land to the U.S. after the Revolutionary War and that it was available, though the territory was untamed and, aside from a few forts, unsettled by white folks. And so, following a meeting with like-minded, land-seeking New Englanders – many of them, war veterans – Cutler saddled his horse and headed to New York to convince members of the U.S. Congress to pass an Ordinance making settlement and statehood easier for newly-populated territories.

“The Pioneers” by David McCullough.

Technically speaking, the government didn’t even own the land yet – local Indians did – but that mattered little to General Rufus Putnam. Putnam had been at the meeting and, unafraid of hardship, was eager to get to this wild land. On December 31, 1787, he departed for Ohio, leading a group of New Englanders with eyes on new farms and new beginnings.

Putnam, says McCullough, likely knew the kind of “difficulties and danger” his party faced on the trip, which took more than three months to complete. They were told that the Indians in the area were “friends and brothers” but “Rufus Putnam thought it best to wait and see.”

His caution was warranted, as it turned out. Over time, the Delaware, Wyandot, Shawnee, and Miami tribes were not happy having white settlers in the area, and they showed it with deadly attacks, stolen scalps, and by wantonly slaughtering local wildlife on which the settlers depended for sustenance. At the end of 1790, Putnam wrote to President Washington that he feared “the worst.”

On January 2, 1791, “calamity” happened …

These stories – heart-pounding and soul-freezing as they are – aren’t the whole of what you’ll read inside “The Pioneers.” Inside, you’ll find so much more.

Readers who think “middle-America” when they think of settlers are in for a treat in this book. Author David McCullough not only takes the story back further, but he goes deeper through mini-biographies on various historical figures and by detailing the everyday lives of average settlers, both men and women. While this is perhaps familiar information, it adds a definite relevance.

Another of the more interesting things about this book is that you may, at times, forget that it’s a historical account! McCullough tells this story with a novelist’s flair inserted into facts, which makes the excitement keener, the atmosphere richer, and the personalities of its people rounder.

More:Bookworm: ‘Ruff’ spots and a bare bear

Fans of McCullough’s work, therefore, will thoroughly enjoy this latest dip into a corner of history, but novel-lovers may want to take a stab at it, too. “The Pioneers” is well-done and absorbing, but it also makes Ohio, circa 1790, a great destination.

“Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers” by Tea Krulos.

“Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers”

  • By Tea Krulos
  • c. 2019, Chicago Review Press
  • $16.99, $22.99 Canada; 240 pages

Three. Two. One. Boom, and the world still exists. There was no cataclysm, no complete grid failure, no total world anarchy – at least not yet, but are you prepared?  You know – and as you’ll see in “Apocalypse Any Day Now” by Tea Krulos – anything can happen.

More:Bookworm: Imparting wisdom; animal doctors

Or not. For centuries, Doomsday stories have circulated through human cultures and they pop up with regularity even now, as Krulos points out. Our first End-of-World prediction was made shortly after America became a country, and the latest one to make news isn’t likely the last one.

"Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America's Doomsday Preppers" by Tea Krulos.

Knowing that, and knowing that “TEOTWAWKI” (The End of the World as We Know It) might be nigh, Krulos decided to learn what to do when it actually happened. Starting near his Wisconsin hometown, he talked with preppers who explained that planning is the key to survival in the worst of times. It also helps to have a garden and the support of your loved ones.

So what if zombies attack? Be aware that you shouldn’t follow advice from your favorite movie. Neither should you rejoice if you find a space pod to shuttle you to another planet; remember, Krulos says, aliens might come here first.

He spoke with a human-like robot that can evade questions while having a conversation. In talking with her creator, Krulos learned that robots have been known to develop and share their own language with one another, but not with scientists – and that maybe there aren’t enough roadblocks to keep that from happening again.

He took a disaster-related survival course and learned to live off the land, and he looked at bug-out bags for sale at conferences and seminars. He toured a pricey underground condo, also learning that surviving the Apocalypse in style ain’t cheap. And he studied TEOTWAWKI predictions, noting that we really could witness the End – if we could just manage to survive long enough.

The Bible says we know not the day, nor the hour. The Doomsday Clock says we’re dangerously close to worldwide destruction. In “Apocalypse Any Day Now,” author Tea Krulos finds everything in between, and it’s scary-fun to read about.

And yet, despite its obvious tongue-in-cheekiness, what you’ll learn inside this book is serious stuff. Armageddon doesn’t happen every day, for example, but natural disasters do, and preparation could make the difference between surviving and dying. You might not spend hours thinking about total devastation, but what goes on behind scientific doors and in government offices surely gives plenty of people plenty of sleepless nights. Yes, some of what Krulos finds is silly, and its practitioners plainly seem to know that. The followers of other survival ideas, though?

Keep reading, and let’s just say that you might start looking for an old backpack…

Astute readers will notice, overall, that one word keeps floating to the top of this highly-entertaining, highly-informative book: hope. It’s what preppers want, what survivalists take on bug-outs, and what “Apocalypse Any Day Now” leaves readers with. And really, isn’t that all you really want in… three, two, one … ?

More:Bookworm: From troubling to trouble free

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.