Holiday Reading (Dueling Edition)

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I’ve just finished Lee Sandlin’s Wicked River, about the Mississippi River’s heyday in the 19th century. It’s well worth a read if you’re into that sort of thing; Sandlin’s a lively storyteller, although most of the stories need little more than a nudge to get going anyway. His narrative is rich with pirates, revivalists, hucksters, antebellum paranoia, alligators, and gratuitous violence**. Here’s a representative sample:

Johnson records one fight that broke out over the question of whether a celebrated duel in South Carolina had been a sham: “When Mr. Charles Stewart stated that those gentlemen that fought actually fought with bullets, Mr Dahlgren said that they must have fought with paper bullets. Mr Stewart then said that if any man would say that they fought with paper bullets that he is a damned liar and a damned scoundrel and a damned coward.” The two men began pummeling each other, Stewart with a walking stick and Dahlgren with an umbrella. They then pulled out pistols and began shooting at each other.

Then their friends joined in with Bowie knives. Sandlin floats the rather preposterous theory that alcohol may have been involved.

**Relevant Twain story: “Journalism in Tennessee,” from 1871.

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And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

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