James McKenna’s Black Range Tales

James McKenna’s Black Range Tales is written ifirst-person. However, instead of narrating in first-person close, he approaches telling the story in first person omniscient. The story is from his perspective but he spends a lot of time explaining the details of life and work at Black Range in order to include readers who are unfamiliar with the area. To me, it reads almost like a natural history account. McKenna’s own persona also comes through a little bit of at a time, even though he does not spend a lot of time talking about himself. But he definitely has a funny, whimsical side and I particularly enjoyed the part with burros and skunks. He shows a connection to animals that it is quite contemporary in thought.

I really liked the story of Mrs. Skunk and her family in “Pioneering from 1877 two 1887.” McKenna discusses animals with a great deal of respect and the story about Mrs. Skunk is no exception. Mrs. Skunk came into his cabin and picked up some scraps from the floor. This happened for a couple of days.  McKenna is careful to note, “you may be sure I did not bother her” and “for many nights after that she made me a visit without in any way disturbing my comfort.” He names her Scraps. After Grudgins wants to make skunk oil out of her to cure his rheumatism. But “I said he could not have my pets and we went ahead with our plans to get winter supplies.” Lines like these characterized McKenna as a beautiful human being who likes to enjoy and connect to curiosities around him.

One thought on “James McKenna’s Black Range Tales

  1. McKenna created some enduring myths, like the grossly inflated population of Kingston. He said it reached 7,000 souls making it the largest town in territorial New Mexico. It topped out at 1,500 before the Panic of 1893. McKenna also has Apache leader Victorio attacking–a year after he’d been killed! You can read more about it on these web sites, and learn more about the Black Range on the Hillsboro Historical Society’s blog.



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