Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Kit Carson: Trail Blazer and Scout, Doris Shannon Garst sketches Carson’s struggle to compensate for his small stature, which resulted in his rise to national fame. Although they are not made explicit, several major divisions provide structure to Garst’s twenty-five-chapter narrative, which is often based upon accounts told by Carson himself or upon reports by the explorer John C. Fremont.

In discussing Carson’s childhood in Missouri, Garst speculates that Carson intuitively realized that he would fulfill an important destiny. Unfortunately, at fifteen, he was apprenticed to a saddle maker in the town of Franklin—a life hardly suitable for a lad dreaming of adventure. Consequently, he ran away, having a one-cent reward offered for his return. Thus began Carson’s true apprenticeship on the Santa Fe Trail and as a novice trapper and trader under the tutelage of such figures as Charles Bent and Jim Bridger. During this coming-of-age, Carson hunted buffalo, suffered thirst in the Dry Cimarron, and finally reached Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, the latter town providing him a permanent sense of home throughout his life. After an expedition against the Apaches and a sojourn in California, his self-confidence in-creased, as others found him reliable despite his unimpressive demeanor. His initiation completed, Carson became a bona fide “mountain man” capable of wintering in the wild, and he gained further military prowess in constant...

(The entire section is 488 words.)