READERS who enjoy being reminded of the relatively short...

Salmagundi

April 23, 1992

READERS who enjoy being reminded of the relatively short span of American history and of the relative modernity of the old West will enjoy John Newhouse's profile of Sen. Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming in the March 16 issue of The New Yorker. Here is a sample:

". . . Milward's grandfather Finn Burnett was an Indian fighter and a friend of Sacajawea, the Shoshone woman who guided Lewis and Clark. [Milward Simpson was Sen. Alan Simpson's father, and a senator from Wyoming before him.] Bill Simpson, Milward's father, was a friend of Butch Cassidy, but as a county attorney in Wyoming, he prosecuted Cassidy and got the only conviction ever against the famous outlaw. . . .

"When Bill met his wife, Margaret . . . she was a teen-age teacher in a Catholic mission school on an Indian reservation near Lander, Wyoming. She knew some Latin and was teaching it to Indians. Bill had heard that a little knowledge of Latin could help someone become a lawyer. She did help, and in 1892 Bill Simpson began practicing law in Lander without benefit of formal training. . . . Bill and Margaret moved on to Jackson, where Milward was born in 1897. . . Al says that his father was 'one of the first white kids' -- non-Indians -- born in Jackson, but Lorna, Al's mother, insists that her husband was actually the first white person born there. What's more, she adds, his birthplace, a log cabin, was the town's first house. . . . The Simpson cabin, she says, was partly wallpapered with pages of the Congressional Record. 'They read what they could lay their hands on,' she says. She thinks that the Congressional Record, which came free through the mail, provided Jackson's only real access to the outside world."

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