Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick
In their critical reviews, writers sometimes were kind to Phil Stong. For example, Palimpsestís Louie W. Attebery in 1987 said that Philip Duffield Stong wrote one good novel about the American West, "Buckskin Breeches." Some critics have said that this 1937 work of art represents Phil Stong at his best!
Stong was born near Keosauqua (in Pittsburg) in 1899 and died in Washington, Connecticut in 1957. He was a football player, a graduate of Drake University, and attended the English Graduate Department of Columbia University. He was a high school teacher and coach, was editor for the Associated Press, and reached success as a novelist.
Stongís State Fair was performed on stage, on film, and as a musical production.
Buckskin Breeches begins in Ohio and concludes in Van Buren County, Wisconsin Territory. It is about the Midwest, yet it is a Western novel. In 1837, Iowa represented the frontier. The novel is regional, but it presents a strong narrative line, action, suspense and a well-conceived plot.
The story begins when two tavern keepers in Ohio decide to move west with their four children and join another couple in their journey. They claim some virgin land, put up a cabin, and then are subject to a variety of hardships, conditions, and situations that caught them unprepared. Indians were included in their encounters, with the threat of a massacre.
Stong invents scenes and difficulties that are credible and provides interesting dramatic cliff-hangers. The book is not heroic or intentionally moral from a social standpoint, but the moral energy of the book develops from inner struggles and from conflicts between characters. Strength emerges from deep within as characters withdraw from the known and comfortable in order to tackle new beginnings. In dealing with love (the greatest human emotion in relationships,) Stong develops six sets of love triangles in varying degrees of intensity. This commands a changing setting of exciting emotion and drama.
Phil Stong allows characters in this novel to develop insight and courage, as they express passion, violence, fatigue, endurance and hope in learning to cope with temptations in a new environment beset with trouble.
Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project
by Andy Reddick