Lige Mounts, Free Trapper
By 1922, when Frank B. Linderman wrote Lige Mounts, he had given up his life as a free trapper in the rugged mountains of Montana to marry and start writing his adventures from his home on Flathead Lake, Montana. The experiences of Linderman’s youth were still fresh in his mind, and through the character of Lige Mounts, Linderman gives the reader a vivid account of what life was like for those who sought adventure in the Rocky Mountain West in the early nineteenth century. Lige Mounts is a story about an eighteen-year-old boy who leaves the comforts of his aunt and uncle’s farm in Missouri and walks 100 miles to St. Louis to “hook up” with fur trappers heading west. While in St. Louis, he is befriended by an older trapper, Wash Lamkin, or “Dad.” Dad takes a liking to Lige and offers him a position with his men to trap the upper Missouri in present day Montana. Lige Mounts comes of age through his association with Dad and his experiences in the West, which include hunting and killing buffalo to survive, defending against the Blackfoot in northern Montana, and living amongst the Cree.
Lige Mounts is an excellent story that invites the reader into a time and place far removed from twentieth-century America. Linderman, a contemporary of western artist Charles M. Russell, put on paper what Russell put on canvas, a chronicle of the American West that was quickly becoming civilized. Both artists leave us words and images of a time long past.