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It took a man by the name of J.T. Headley to finally capture what all the others could not.
Murray, the ultimate huckster, tried to sell it.
Wallace, the lister of facts, tried to get the locus, loci, data, datum, focus and foci correct and missed the whole point in his writings.
Stoddard came the closest with his etchings and descriptions but even old Seneca Ray tripped around the edges.
I cannot tell you what Headley was describing without pulling out this old yellow manuscript and pointing out the pages of interest. In my attempt to keep from drawing this on interminably I will simply show you.
Even old Headley had to depend on Professor Emmons to help him get the mood of the Adirondack Mountains.
It is not a scene, it is not a list of portages, it is not the schedule of railroads, it is not the words that we use; it is a feeling, a mood, a spirituality that make these mountains what they are.
Or what the Adirondacks “were” may be a more proper term.
My fellow Indians in the west were able to define it by using the phrase “Sacred Grounds.” That is what these mountains are; Sacred Hunting Grounds, Sacred Fishing Grounds, Sacred Burial Grounds.
However my people have failed in their work. Now there is nothing sacred about these North Woods where railroads, steamboats and hundreds of people have invaded us. Smokey iron engines and steel rails have erased whatever sacredness there was in these mountains.
Oh, I can still feel the past if I go deep enough into the mountains. But I must leave the old Indian paths and find a new place. I must evade the glimmering lakes and be satisfied with a small pond hidden within the tamaracks. I may never see a moose again but I shall be satisfied with his tracks along the shore of a bog.
I wander again. Let me get back to the pages that belong to Headley.
Of course Headley saw all this before “progress” interrupted the Adirondacks in its natural growth. He had seen the Adirondacks when it hardly had a scratch on it.
Except for the path that led to a future iron mine. I will let Headley continue.
I am pleased that Headley had an Indian Guide to tell him that the name of this sacred place is not “Marcy” but rather my namesake, “Tahawus.” It remains spelled incorrectly to this day. It is not as sacred as it once was; not with all the footprints all over it.
When Headley finally reaches the foot of Tahawus he finds there is preparation to be done.
He leaves it in the hands of his Indian guide.
And there we have it. Headley has discovered the Adirondacks just as it was receiving the “Gift of Progress.”
He was a lucky man.
Maybe we can see what kind of trouble or joy that Headley can find.
Let us see what tomorrow brings.