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Long Hunters offer interesting story for visiting authorPosted Monday, January 28, 2013, at 2:27 PM
Author/speaker John Curry of Harrodsburg, KY talks about his second book on the Long Hunters. (By Nick Schneider)
He smiled and greeted visitors in a slow, eastern Kentucky drawl as they filed past his station at the Buck Creek Muzzleloader Club's 12th Annual Trade Show.
It doesn't take a long conversation to know that John Curry is a gifted storyteller, who enjoys making the life of the long hunters come alive.
The long hunters, who rode horses, were an adventuresome group of men, many who were down on their luck and far from prosperous, according to Curry.
"You can't image how poor these people were," he says.
However, that changed after their hunts and many became successful businessmen, plantation owners, politicians and the like.
From the late 1740s to middle 1770s, hunters from Virginia and North Carolina would unite for a hunting expedition west of the Cumberland Mountains into what is now south central Kentucky and into middle Tennessee.
Because they were away from their homes for one and a half to two years at a time -- traveling 250 to 300 miles -- they became known as the "Long Hunters," he explained with the excitement of a scholar, who knew everything about these unique group of frontiersmen.
"That wasn't a term that some 19th century historians called them. That's what they called themselves and that's what their wives called them," Curry, who sports long, untrimmed eyebrows, said.
"They'd hunt for deer. They were professional, full-time hunters, 365-days-a-year hunters. They didn't back home to be farmers or any other jobs," Curry said. "These guys would kill deer by the thousands (estimated at 30,000 on some hunts). You could go into one of these hunts destitute and come out prosperous.
"They hunted in places where no 'white man' had been seen. They'd hide from the Indians because they all figured they owned the place. You're dodging Indians, but you don't have to worry too much. There are millions and millions of square miles and it's a rare occasion when you are caught by the Indians."
His first book, "Rockhouses & Rhododendron, Or the Saga of the Long Hunter," sold out three years ago and is difficult and costly to get your hands on a copy.
Curry's second book, "Rockhouses & Rhododendron Vol. 2," picks up in the fall of 1768 with James Knox meeting the Cherokee Captain Dick in southwestern Virginia and the two of them going out into the bluegrass to hunt and explore on "Dick's" River.
From there, he takes a hard, close-up and personal look at Knox's first, seriously organized "Great Meadow" long hunt of 1769-1770, Boone's Station Camp Creek hunt of 1769-1771, the big, Knox, Drake, Skaggs, Mansker, "Skin House/Green River" 40 man hunt of 1770-1772, the Barren River hunts and then on down into Middle Tennessee with The Bledsoes, John Montgomery, Caspar Mansker, Big Foot Spencer and that bunch, as he explains.
An Indianapolis-area native who retired from International Harvester Company, Curry now lives in a historically correct 1700s farmstead near Harrodsburg, Ky. He's been an avid student of the 18th century frontier for decades and has organized and led many historic forays into wilderness areas.
He has written for several muzzleloading and living history magazines including Muzzle Blasts, Smoke and Fire, On the Trail, Dixie Gun Works, Black Powder Annual and Muzzleloader.
Currently, Curry writes the popular monthly column "Wilderness Writings" for the national Muzzle Loading Association's Muzzle Blasts magazine.
Curry says he's not a history buff and admitted, "I'm the world's worst writer and people pay me lots and lots of money to come and talk about history."
That drew the next question to Curry, "What interests you about the long hunters and their history?
He replied, "This is not history. This is like a living adventure story about these real guys who have nothing, but they were the greatest woodsmen on the face of the earth. They decided they were going to take a chance that nobody had ever taken before. They were going to divorce themselves from humanity for two years at a time. They were going to explore places that white man's eyes have never seen.
"The thing just fascinates me and it's not history. What I do, I tell you about these guys and after I tell you about them, I take you to where they actually did their things."
Nick is assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at 847-4487 or 1-800-947-4487 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow Nick on Twitter @GCDWSchneider .
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