William Drannan began life as a young boy who is orphaned and raised among the slave children on a plantation until he ran away at 15 to be taken in by Kit Carson, a trapper and respected frontiersman. Carson took Drannan under his wing and taught him the ways of trapping and self-reliance, effectively becoming Drannan’s adoptive father, though he insisted Drannan call him “Uncle Kit”.
Drannan soon begins traveling the frontier, learning to build shelters, trap animals, trade with or fight various tribes of Indians, escort emigrant wagon trains, scout for the army, and even try his hand at a little undercover detective work. It’s a wonderful, historic glimpse into frontier life in 19th century America, with vivid descriptions of the distinctive personalities of various sorts of soldiers and settlers, as well as fascinating reflections on the characteristics and temperament of many different tribes of Native Americans. Of course, the unifying element is Drannan’s maturation from boyhood to manhood as he makes his way through the rugged, ever-changing landscape of the western United States, with a few trips to Mexico and the Midwest as well.
Skillfully woven, plainly but vividly told, Thirty-One Years on the Plains and in the Mountains is Drannan’s historic account of a life spent trekking across the American frontier.