Friday, July 31, 2015

Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick – "We Can Do It" (2005)

What did Lewis say to Clark
When everything looked bleak? . . .
We can do it!  We can do it!

The last 2 or 3 lines featured a report on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which I wrote at the behest of my junior-high history teacher.  I was expecting an easy A+ on my report, but I only got an A.  But what really hurt was her damning the report with faint praise as "pretty good."

Just "pretty good"?  Really?

My report had it all.  I talked about my visit to the spot where Lewis and Clark camped before heading up the Missouri River and about the patent laxative (Rush's "Thunderclappers") they took on the trip.  I threw in some obscure stuff about Daniel Boone.  I topped it all off by describing the amazing air rifle Lewis and Clark used to impress hostile Indians they met on the journey.  Plus I illustrated the report with a bunch of great photos.

On top of all that, I found a song with lyrics about Lewis and Clark to quote at the beginning of my report!

My former teacher said I would have gotten an A+ if I had read Lewis and Clark's journals.  Was she serious?

The standard edition of the Lewis and Clark journals comes in THIRTEEN volumes and is over 5300 pages long, for cryin' out loud.  Does she not know I have a thriving law practice, and that I post three times a week to my wildly popular music blog?

I'm determined to get the A+ I deserve.  So this and the next 2 or 3 lines are all about Meriweather Lewis's dog, Seaman – complete with lots of quotes from Lewis and Clark's dumb ol' journals.  You'll laugh, you'll cry . . . and if you don't want my parents to make a stink with your principal, you'll give me an A+.

Captain Lewis's Dog, Seaman: "The Greatest Traveller of My Species"

Captain Meriweather Lewis was 28 years old when President Thomas Jefferson appointed him to lead an expedition exploring the recently purchased Louisiana Territory.

Meriweather Lewis
The Corps of Discovery commanded by Lewis consisted of himself, Lieutenant William Clark, five NCOs, 30 enlisted men, and several civilians – including Sacagawea (the Shoshone wife of a French-Canadian trader) and York (a slave who had been Clark's companion since boyhood, and who Clark freed in 1811).

The Corps of Discovery also included a dog – a 150-pound black Newfoundland named Seaman.

Newfoundlands are big-ass dogs
Lewis had purchased Seaman in Pittsburgh while he was waiting for a boatbuilder to complete the construction of a large keelboat that would carry his expedition up the Missouri River.  

He paid $20 for the dog, which seems like a very large sum for that era.  But Seaman began to demonstrate his value to Lewis a few days after they departed from Pittsburgh.

Lewis, Clark, and Seaman
(St. Charles, MO)
As they were floating down the Ohio River, Lewis saw a number of squirrels swimming across the river from north to south.  Stephen Ambrose, describes what happened next in his biography of Lewis, Undaunted Courage:

Seaman started barking at them; Lewis let him go; Seaman swam out, grabbed a squirrel, killed him, and fetched him back to Lewis, who sent the dog out for repeated performances.  Lewis had the squirrels fried and declared "they were fat and I thought a pleasant [sic] food."

While continuing down the Ohio, Lewis encountered a "a respectable looking Indian" who offered him three beaver skins for Seaman.  The offer was clearly inadequate in Lewis's mind.  "Of course, there was no bargain," he later wrote.

One of several historical
novels that feature Seaman
As the expedition's boats made their way up the Missouri River in the summer and fall of 1804, Lewis often walked on the shore, seeking new plant and animal species, looking for game, and making notes about the region's mineral resources and soil fertility.  He was often accompanied only by Seaman on these wilderness  rambles. 

In May 1805, one of Lewis and Clark's men wounded a beaver, and Seaman jumped into the river to retrieve it.  "[T]he beaver bit him through the hind leg and cut the artery; it was with great difficulty that I could stop the blood; I fear it will yet prove fatal to him," Lewis wrote.  But Seaman quickly recovered thanks to Lewis's surgical skills.

Later that summer, as the Corps of Discovery was portaging from the Missouri to the Columbia River, they encountered a number of grizzly bears, some of whom came uncomfortably close to their camp after dark.

Lewis wrote in his journal that Seaman "keeps constantly paroling [sic] all night," and "gives us timely notice of [the bears'] visits."  Thanks to Seaman's vigilance, Lewis said, the bears "have never yet ventured to attack us."

In April 1806, as the Corps of Discovery was on its way back to St. Louis, three Indians stole Seaman.  

Lewis was furious.  From Undaunted Courage:

[Lewis] called three men and snapped out orders to follow and find those thieves and "if they made the least resistance [sic] or difficulty in surrendering the dog to fire on them."  The soldiers set out; when the thieves realized they were being pursued, they let Seaman go and fled.  Lewis may have been ready to kill to get Seaman back, but the Indians weren't ready to die for the dog.

In July 1806, while in what is now western Montana, Lewis saw a large creek which he named Seaman's Creek to commemorate his steadfast canine companion.  (That creek was later renamed Monture Creek.) 

A few days later, Lewis wrote that "the musquetoes [sic] continue to infest us in such manner that we can scarcely exist . . . . [M]y dog even howls with the torture he experiences from them."  

That's the last mention of Seaman in the expedition's journals.  Most historians believe that means that Seaman made it back to St. Louis with the rest of the Corps of Discovery; they reason that his death or disappearance would almost certainly have been noted in those journals.

A monument to Seaman
(Cairo, IL)
What happened to Seaman after the Lewis and Clark Expedition was over?

Read the next 2 or 3 lines to find out.  (It's an amazing story.)

"We Can Do It" is from Act I of the musical version of The Producers.  Here's the version of "We Can Do It" that is included on the soundtrack of the 2005 film of The Producers.

It features Nathan Lane as Max Bialystock and Matthew Broderick as Leo Bloom.  Lane and Broderick had played the same roles in the Broadway musical.

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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