MOHICAN MUSINGS ... Part 9
We do not understand what is happening here ... The Mohicans Phenomenon!
It's not like this was planned.
Alright, let's back up a second, or at least a few years. It's been a long time since a new musing was added to The Mohican Musings. I mean, how much can one muse? Quite a bit, apparently, and here we go again. So, what prompted this one?
Where were we? Oh! No plan. Yes, there was no grand plan. And that's probably a good thing, for neither fame nor fortune would seem to be in the cards. Would hate to see a great scheme go all to hell in a bucket!
So then, what is the purpose of our being? James Fenimore Cooper, it would seem, had an incredible beat on the pulse of America. There is something ... something so very intangible ... that is intrinsic to his writing - like it or not - and in particular the very first Great American Novel, The Last of the Mohicans. So strong is his vision, his feel for the people, whatever this intangible may be, that not only has the story endured & intrigued since 1826, but even a Michael Mann corruption of it - fine a film as it may be - not only continued this phenomenon, but perhaps even enhanced it!
This is not an every day occurrence. Not every book is a classic. And you know what they say about the movies, it wasn't as good as the book. So what is it then, why this book? Why this movie? Why does it lure unsuspectings in, and whip them into a frontier frenzy, babbling buckskin and lusting loincloth? Damned if we know. Good story, great cast, marvelous music, soaring scenery ... but, lots of tales are built upon such. Not every movie demands such loyalty from those who made it. Not every movie can generate the fan base to support a web site the size of this one. And that's just it, it's not just "fans" ... it's reenactors, it's historians, it's teachers & students, it's researchers & writers, most interestingly, it's the cast & crew themselves. What the heck is it? We told you, damned if we know. This is a whole lot more than Rocky Horror Picture Show! So, given that we don't know, we won't even surmise, we'll simply report the facts.
It's pretty amazing, but this cockamamie idea, that was born somewhere along the way, of creating a living monument to a piece of Americana has reached fruition. It worked!
Starting with a viewing of a film, on video no less, one thing lead to another - the story is elsewhere on this site - but, left with a handful of pictures that had nothing better to do, they were sent on to a few cast members, resulting in the now almost famous A LETTER FROM DANIEL DAY-LEWIS ... a Handwritten Note From Hawkeye Himself. That, friends, was back in 1993. By that time, of course, several extras, locations scouts, and the locations manager himself, Michael Bigham, had already, to one extent or another, contributed to the then causeless cause by assisting in pinpointing each and every remote, and some fairly insignificant, patch of ground that appears in the final product. Little did they know!
Now, 10 years and over a month later, another letter arrives, this one completely unsolicited, but bearing a remarkably similar theme to that expressed by DDL:
A letter ... over 10 years later! During that time, of course, our guide booklet came out, accompanied by this web site since early 1997. What's the attraction?
There's something happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear! - Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth
You can offer whatever reason[s] you like, and more than likely you'd be at least partially correct. One thing is for certain, and that is that there is, without the shadow of a doubt, an attraction. Even Eric Schweig, who clearly downplays the importance of this film, has an extensive interview on this site, has attended a Mohican Gathering - a "fan" gathering at the locations [and much more!] - and sold his masks through this web site for about 2 years!
Think about this - it simply must be unprecedented. We've already mentioned DDL, Schweig, Blatchford, Bigham, and Mann. All have, in one way or another, now left their mark on this web site. But there are so many more, and many, if not most, appeared of their own volition. Wes Studi, Russell Means, Soldiers #1 and #2, Lee Teter, the late Mike Phillips, H. David Wright, the hair department, the make-up department, the tattoo department, Maurice Roeves, Mark Baker, the head of fort construction, and several other extras & crew members - even the helicopter guy who flew Mann & Bigham around seeking suitable sites, for crying out loud - have their fingerprints scattered about the web site. They've been interviewed, contributed photos, reminisced, attended Gatherings, supplied anecdotes, some have even intermingled a bit on our ever-popular Mohican Board [another story unto itself!]. Those folks all left clear, visible traces. And over such a time span! Who knows who else may have passed this way?
Movie making is work. Each film becomes merely a job. That is not to say cast & crew doesn't come away with good feelings after the job is done. Here, it would seem, it goes far beyond that. The "fan" base & cast/crew blend together ... through this web site and through the Mohican Gatherings. There is a common denominator, and that takes us back to Cooper. Something, embedded in the story, does that to folks. There's a bit of the American frontier spirit in us all, it would appear, American & non-American alike. It binds & captivates. It is history; it is socialization. It is love; it is war. It is the essence of our being.
Whatever it is, it has allowed all this to transpire for a prolonged period of time. For nearly 2 centuries, actually. The most recent manifestation is due to Mann. From our perspective, all this has allowed our site to be considered, by us anyway, a success, despite it lacking in the rewards most often associated with the barometers of success - the fame & fortune we spoke of earlier. And, it's not just something we think. At least one dissertation has been written that prominently discusses our web site [See: LOTM DISSERTATION] and may one day be a book. Others notice.
It's not always this good, there have been bouts of terror & venom - see our ON THE TRAIL CHRONICLE for a recap of the first 2 years' adventures [more supposed to come!]. Yet, every once in a while, something - or someone - comes along to remind us that what we've built here does serve a purpose. [That should be obvious, as everyday, some 2000 visitors strong, egg us on. It's a human nature thing, we guess!] This time, it was a letter ... a simple, eloquent letter ... from Captain Jack!
Thank you, Captain ... thank you all!
We're just thrilled to be a resource, to be the melting pot, to be a part of the American story. For what it's worth.
Enjoy the ride!