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Testicular Fortitude means having deep seated masculine courage and strength. Balls. Guts. Manlihood.
Testicular Fortitude on the Manlihood ManCast is where we take a look at men who have beat the odds, men whose courage has left a lasting legacy.
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Imagine taking a lead musketbal to your arm, having it sawn off in a field hospital, and then going on to explore uncharted and impassable rivers on a raft with only one good arm…
As his name would suggest, John Wesley Powell was the son of a Methodist preacher. He grew up with a fascination for exploration and nature, and as a young man, went on several river expeditions to study fossils and geology along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
But then the Civil War broke out, and he earned a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the Union Army. At the battle of Shiloh, his right forearm was shattered by a minie-ball, and his arm was amputated. He continued to serve in the army throughout the war, helping with Sherman’s artillery.
After the war, he assumed the role of professor of natural sciences at Illinois Wesleyan University and curator of the Illinois Natural History Society Museum.
But you can’t keep a man like Powell contained to the classroom.
With one arm, he went on to explore Pike’s Peak and the front range of the Rockies.
In 1868 he put together an expedition to explore the Colorado River from Wyoming down through the Grand Canyon. Powell, along with a crew of hunters, trappers, civil war vets.
He was begged not to go. One arm through dangerous uncharted rapids is dangerous business. But he went anyway. And that trip was worthy of those warnings.
One of the party’s rafts sank in Utah, tanking about a fourth of their supplies and most of their scientific equipment.
Four days later, the party entered the Grand Canyon, and marveled at the beautiful rock formations… but they almost lost another boat, and in that mishap, they lost even more of their food.
Three men left the expedition, tired of the hard journey. Those three men were killed by a band of natives who thought they were invading their territory.
As Powell and the remaining crew made it to area that is known now as Lake Mead in Nevada, he halted the expedition, returning two years later with another crew to make accurate maps of the Colorado River.
These expeditions yielded much geographic information, as well as linguistic and cultural information about the Native Americans living in the area.
Anytime we look at history, we can see positives and negatives.
Critics of Powell’s work say that some of his ideas and opinions about the native population dehumanized them and had a large impact on the public policies that would have a brutal effect on their relationship with the US Government and the Westward Expansion.
And while I may not agree with everything Powell said, did or thought, we can certainly agree that he was a man whose courage and relentless adventuring spirit show that he had testicular fortitude!