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Before we get started, let’s clear the air: people in the know on such things claim the only liar more gifted in deceit than James P. Beckwourth was T. D. Bonner, who, way back in 1856, wrote Beckwourth’s biography, something titled, unimaginatively, The Life and Times of James Beckwourth.

Few who read these words ever heard of Jim Beckwourth, but if I name him among his peers, an outline may just appear: Hugh Glass, Jim Bridger, and that praying mountain man, Jedidiah Smith. Beckworth was a trapper when the only two-leggeds out here where I live were Yankton Sioux and a few French-Canadian fur trappers.

Beckworth’s father was a white man, Sir Jennings Beckwith, his mother one of his father’s slaves, which means Beckwourth was born a slave in old Virginia. I’m here to say that if he did half of what his biography claims, he was a wonder.

That the two of them were known to blow things their way doesn’t mean the book is worthless. In fact, one aside seems to me to be fitting for what I’m up to right now — and what the people at Reformed Journal are up to.

Goes like this:

In a fight with the Blackfeet, the Crow had taken a young lady and a boy prisoner. Commander Atkinson, of the cavalry, demanded those two be freed (the young lady was half white). Plain wrong, the Crow said; they’d come by their prisoners fair and square. Atkinson threatened and the Crow got mad. Lots of bared teeth and knuckles, until Atkinson said they’d fight the next day.

Here’s the thing. The next day the General sent a translator named Rose to take care of things. Listen. “General Atkinson pacified them through Rose, who was one of the best interpreters ever known in the whole Indian country.”

Yes, those are stretchy words — “best,” “ever known,” “whole Indian country.” This Rose character — we don’t know much else about him, other than he was a translator, an interpreter, and, once upon a time at least, a peacemaker, a real blessing.

I’d like to think that this man Rose was not unlike what those of us who write for this website, on our best days try hard to get done: to look out at a world that sometimes seems gone mad, but a world for which we believe God gave his only begotten Son. We try to be interpreters of real meaning.

We’re asking for your support for the ministry of the Reformed Journal, for the translators, the interpreters, for an enterprise of people who try to do bring peace.

Remember us in your gift-giving this holiday season.

Remember Rose.

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Click here to donate to Reformed Journal today. Thank you!

Please remember our But Wait…There’s More! invitation. Give $300 before the end of year and you’ll receive three great books over the next year.

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Remember that tomorrow Jim’s special series of podcasts Come Christmas Morn begins — stories written and read by Jim. Tomorrow’s story is “Forgetting Jesus.” The series will run for the next five Sundays.

James C. Schaap

James Calvin Schaap is a retired English prof who has been something of a writer for most of the last 40 years. His latest work, a novel, Looking for Dawn, set in reservation country, is the story of two young women joined by their parents' mutual brokenness and, finally, a machine-shed sacrament of reconciliation. He writes and narrates a weekly essay on regional history for KWIT, public radio, Sioux City, Iowa. He and his wife Barbara live on the northern edge of Alton, Iowa, the Sgt. Floyd River a hundred yards or so from their back door. They have a cat--rather, he has them.

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