A selection of contemporary accounts by hunters, guides, traders, peacemakers, Indian fighters and adventurers who spearheaded the American push west in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Some of these pieces were transcribed from notes taken on the spot; some were recollections written later in relative tranquility; others were dictated to scribes with considerable more book larnin' than the subject. Most of the wilderness men were shrewd, tough, brave and had rawhide sensibilities. Their attitude towards the Indians was occasionally ambivalent (some were adopted by Indian tribes) but they clung to a belief in racial superiority as to a bowie knife. Carson, Crockett and Boone offer long-winded recitals of dangers undergone with an eye, one suspects, to their publics. But some pieces by now-unknown frontiersmen are fascinating. Peter Pond, for example, whose spelling matched his joie de vivre, recounted adventures in 1773-74 through Wisconsin territory, observing game and scenery with lively and witty comments on ""Exalant"" places and people. Two escape tales by Alexander Henry and John Colter, although dressed up and edited, are riveting. Through the grisly combats, the towering deaths of bears and buffalo, peace pipes and tomahawks, there's still, in these accounts a clue to the awesome wilderness that was.