An unusual look at the saga of America's West, as Kreyche (Philosophy/DePauw), editor of Listening, puts frontier events in a philosophical perspective. Most studies of the Old West are written from the standpoint of history, sociology, or anthropology. But Kreyche is more concerned with gleaning the spirit of the West, a spirit that he sees as bound up with the freedom, individualism, and self-sufficiency that were the hallmarks of the American pioneer. In chronicling the stories of Lewis and Clark, mountain men, Plains Indians, the gold rush, missionaries, and those who peopled the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails, Kreyche is struck by ""a distinctive ethos, a special character, a tone and guiding belief"" that set the West apart from the eastern US. ""It is my stubborn contention,"" he writes, ""that in westering, the veneer of the sophisticated Easterner was sloughed off. . .What the West helped produce. . .was a new, virtually unique and authentic man--a homo Americanus."" The author does not gloss over the uglier aspects of American expansion westward, finding it impelled by a series of contradictory motives: subjugation vs. freedom, exploitation vs. exploration, destruction vs. conservation. But, philosophically, Kreyche finds great sympathy for the character of the pioneers: ""the people who stayed in the East did so in order to do, and those who went West did so in order to be."" An earnest articulation of some rather obvious underpinnings of the Old West.