This talk traces the ideas and practices which linked human well-being and locale in the borderlands of the United States, centering on the "Far West" of present-day Arkansas and Missouri. Fundamentally identical processes, I argue, were thought to operate in the natural world and in the human body. In the release of foul miasmas from soil disturbed by cultivation, antebellum Americans perceived the same cycle of imbalance and re-equilibrium that they experienced in the release of "bad humors" from their own ill bodies.
Tracing the functional identity between farming and the maintenance of health, I identify basic insights of process: anything incomplete was dangerous, anything in-between was liable to be pathological, anything ripe needed to come to fruition or could go threateningly bad. Changing "wild" land to "settled" territory, early free Americans and their slaves worked on the land what domestic medicine worked in them: they wrought a domestication of terrain that was as intimate as it was profound.