Yellacat Ranch Under a Western Sky


City States in America

The Ancient World had city states. Sometimes they became empires. And then when the empires collapsed they sometimes became nations. (Although–the modern ethnic nation state is more or less a late European invention.) When I was a kid, I used to imagine, particularly on car trips, that the cities around me were like ancient city states. I would spend time looking for geographic features...

Preservation Societies

Is there anything that needs preserving that someone somewhere isn’t doing already? I’m in the mood.

The Kinks – The Village Green Preservation Society (Official Audio)

Myth of the frontier

I keep watch for pieces about the mythology of the American West. Westerns and cowboys are the American myth, hands down. My neo-pagan friends find meaning in Norse culture, in Celtic culture, in every romanticized period of history except America. I’m not going to embed this one because it’s so long: How Historians Killed the Western. "The Western died in the 1970s. It went from the...


We watched Waco last Sunday night. It was, for me, unimaginably powerful. Here’s a trailer from YouTube. In 1993 the ATF got a search warrant for the Branch Davidian headquarters in Waco, Texas, and an arrest warrant for David Koresh, the religious leader of the group, on weapons charges. Instead of serving the warrants, the ATF launched a surprise raid, trying to force entry. There was a...

Heritage of Hate

I hadn’t planned to write about Southern identity any time in the immediate future. I decided to do it because of this excellent video by The Cynical Historian. He does interesting work and this one is particularly good. The video is particularly timely right at the moment, when America is governed seemingly by un-reconstructed Confederates and neo-Nazis. This is not our ancestors’...

Daughter of Time

As a Riccardian, Josephine Tey’s novel Daughter of Time is an old favorite. Re-reading last night. I didn’t expect it to provide an example of how researchers go wrong. The story goes like this. Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard is convalescing after an injury. A friend triggers his interest in Richard III and the Princes in the Tower. One of the most famous mysteries in the...

Victorian Soft Porn

History doesn’t change but our interpretation of it does. It’s all the same events and and the same material culture (as far we can discover it), but when we look back on it we often see different things than our ancestors did. I’ve been looking for a good example to add to my “toolkit” of elevator speeches, and here it is. Victorian pornography. We think of the...

White American Culture

Here’s a guy, someone I watch now and then on YouTube, complaining that White Americans have no culture. It’s hard to know what to make of this. It’s an idea generally associated with White Supremacists, but I don’t think that’s his point. He says most white Americans lack a sense of culture and a sense of racial or ethnic identity. He says culture is not just...

Learning the middle ages

I pulled this old article by James Palmer out of my bookmarks last night. I’ve found my interests wandering lately from the Middle Ages to the American West. Don’t know why that is. If I had wanted to do western history, my parents were total geeks. I was mysteriously attracted more to medieval stuff, and now I’ve been doing it for 50 years or more. So, I’m asking myself...

American Exceptionalism

White supremacists make a basic mistake about history. They imagine we live in the same world our ancestors did. They’re just wrong. Our ancestors in America had to learn how to live on the Frontier. The Indians knew how to live here, but the settlers didn’t. In the process of adapting the settlers created a new culture. They stopped being Europeans and became a different people with...

Yellacat Ranch Under a Western Sky
Justin Swanstrom

Justin Swanstrom

Made in America. Retired attorney. Bookseller at Shining Lotus. No Nazis in Valhalla. He/him.

View Full Profile →


Blog Stats