Quick follow up to last month's LONG post on George W. Bush's favorite painting, W.H.D. Koerner's "A Charge to Keep"...
Tonight I finally read the story that actually contained the image in question. It's called "A Charge to Keep," authored by Ben Ames Williams, published in serial form in 1918 in Country Gentleman magazine. Sorry, lefty bloggers, not a story about a horse thief. Nor, however, does it seem to have much in the way of a deep Christian message of leadership. It does not appear even to be Methodist.
The plot goes something like this: young Jasper lives with his father in pristine wooded country. On his deathbed father makes Jasper promise never to sell off their land to the local lumbermen who covet its timber and would love nothing more than to "ravage" it. A convoluted plot unfolds in which Jasper fights against unknown forces trying to drive him to sell the land. Add to this the dead father's sketchy gold miner past, tales of dark revenge, and the appearance on the scene of an attractive young girl who can paddle a canoe and swing an ax. When all is said and done, love is found and the charge is kept.
We can, I suppose, find some irony in the story's environmental message, given that the "charge to keep" is in fact one of wilderness conservation. But apart from Bush specifically, I remain amused by the misinformation about the Koerner image. It's not so much that folks were wrong about where the image did and didn't appear, but that they were wrong in such a highly specific way. Weird.