Zooming over the Lilac Wasatch, inexplicable buttes, and silver-chained pools of the Platte between tides, the mind’s eye descries the land that lends itself unto the most incantatory epithets, but every last winedark one of them will fail a vast concatenation that sings its promise in scale alone.


That scale, Dear Reader, will be your undoing.


[He rests a moment, shaking off the weight of this word.]


Now, ere I proceed into the knotty particulars, allow me to produce some credentials. I’ve mentioned I wrote a book, but I’ve neglected to offer my qualifications as its author. I had gone, you see, to Oregon — in 1842. I blazed the Oregon Trail. Yes, a lawyer blazed the Oregon Trail, surely as a gaggle of lawyers convened to declare Independence and, later, draft a Constitution!


As a lawyer, a man perennial immersed in knotty particulars so that the rest of the good world has time to go about its business, as a man trained at the bar to show the shortest way through paperwork and trials of any stripe, I will state the obvious to you scholars of American history: I was not born when Meriwether Lewis and William Clark enlisted the service of a slave squaw girl and her Frog fur trapper husband to tell them to walk in the direction the water was flowing once they got over the Continental Divide.


I was born 15 years later in 1819. As a young man with legal training, I looked West and I saw land; I reasoned — correctly — that where there was land, there would be claims. One of my first clients upon my arrival in Oregon in the fall of 1842 was one Dr. John McLoughlin. What to say about McLoughlin… Hmm… Born in Rivière-du-Loup south of Montréal in 1784. He grew to stand 6’4” in stocking feet with snow-white hair down to his neck that was disheveled enough to make a tumbleweed blush. He was a licensed physician and polyglot among both savages and Whites who stood trial for murder the year before I was born. The victim, you ask? Oh, why only the Governor of Red River Colony. In short, John McLoughlin was your typical, upstanding Quebecois.


John McLoughlin ran Oregon. He also required legal representation as his fiefdom hurtled toward the question of statehood. Specifically, I performed three duties for Dr. McLoughlin: firstly, I prepared his land claim near Willamette Falls; secondly, I surveyed Oregon City, which was to become the first incorporated city west of the Rocky Mountains; thirdly and most critically, I uttered a single sentence in a roomful of greedy men who referred to themselves as “civic-minded”:


“Resolved, That it is expedient for the settlers of the coast to organize an independent government.”