The Western: When I was growing up I remember my father reading Western novels. He always had a book going. My dad served in WWII in the Pacific. After the war he returned home and served as a Police Officer for the city of Toledo. I am sure to my Dad, and to many of his generation, the Westerns written by Louis L’Amour were favorites.
Hondo: This was Louis La’Amour’s first full length novel, published in 1953. Every one of his more than 100 books is in print and there are more than 230 million of his books in print worldwide making him one of the best selling authors in modern times. His books have been translated into twenty languages, and more than forty-five of his novels and stories have been made into feature films and television movies.
High Honors: He received many high honors and awards. In 1983 Louis L’Amour became the first novelist ever to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress. In 1984 President Ronald Reagan awarded him the Medal of Freedom. Louis L’Amour died on June 10, 1988.
Excerpts: I recently read “The Cherokee Trail”, first published in 1982. The story is of a strong woman who moves West from her home in Virginia due to the Civil War. In the back of this novel there are several excerpts from some of his other novels. I will share one below so you can get a taste of why Louis L’Amour was called “America’s Favorite Story Teller”.
“Tell her of the West?…… Where could a man begin? Where could he find the words to put the pictures before her that he saw when she asked about the West? How could he tell her of fifty-mile cattle drives without water and the cattle dying and looking wild-eyed into the sun? How could he tell her about the sweat, the dust, the alkali? Or the hard camps of hard men where a word was a gun and a gun was a death? And plugging a wound with a dirty handkerchief and hoping it didn’t poison? What could a man tell a woman of the West? How could he find words for the swift-running streams, chuckling over rocks, for the mountains that reached to heaven and the clouds that choked the valleys among the high peaks? What words did have to talk of that?”
“There’s a wonder of land out there, Mrs. Thorne”, I said, “a wide wonder of it, with distances that reach out beyond your seeing, where a man can ride six days and get nowhere at all. There are canyons where no white man has walked, canyons among the unfleshed bones of the mountains, with the soil long gone if ever there was any, like old buffalo bones where the buzzard and the coyotes had been at them. There’s campfires, ma’am, where you sit over a tiny fire with a million tiny fires in the sky above you like the fires of a million lonely men. You hover over your fire and hear the coyotes speaking their plaintive words at the moon, and you smell the acrid smoke and you wonder where you are and if there’s Comanches out there, and your horse comes close to the fire for company and looks out into the dark with pricked-up ears. Chances are the night is empty, of living things, anyway, for who can say what ghosts may haunt a country the like of that?”
” Sometimes I’d be lazy in the morning and lie in my blankets after sunup, and I’d see deer coming down to the water to drink. Those days a man didn’t often camp right up against a water hole. It wasn’t safe, but that wasn’t the reason. There’s other creatures need water besides a man, and they won’t come nigh it if a man is close by, so it’s best to get your water and then sleep back so the deer, the quail, and maybe a cougar can come for water, too.”
“Times like that a man sees some strange sights. One morning I watched seven bighorn sheep come down to the water. No creature alive, man or animal, has the stately dignity of a bighorn. They came down to the water there and stood around, taking another drink now and again. Tall as a burro most of them, and hair as soft as a fawn’s belly. A man who travels alone misses a lot, ma’am, but he sees a lot the busy, talky folks never get a chance to see.”
“Why, Iv’s stood ten feet from a grizzly bear stuffing himself with blackberries and all he did was look at me now and again. He was so busy at those berries he’d no time for me. So I just sat down and watched him and ate my own fixin’s right there, for company. He paid me no mind, and I paid him little more. When I’d eaten what I had, I went back to my horse and when I left I called out to him and said, ‘Good-bye, Old Timer’, and lifted a hand, and would you believe it, ma’am, he turned and looked after me like he missed my company.”