Wednesday, December 26, 2018

War Party

Ryerson and his wife were going back. She was a complaining woman and he was a man who was always ailing when there was work to be done. Four or five wagons were turning back, folks with their tails betwixt their legs running for the shelter of towns where their own littleness wouldn’t stand out so plain.
I’ll admit to a love-indifferent relationship with author Louis L ‘Amour. There is some of his work that feels that he’s writing a bit too fast, perhaps a little sloppily and merely going through the paces.
But…there are also times when his narrative seems fueled with jet-propellant and he peoples his books with characters I’d be honored to know.
The prairie and sky had a way of trimming folks down to size, or changing them to giants to whom nothing seemed impossible. Men who had cut a wide swath back in the States found themselves nothing out here. They were folks who were used to doing a lot of talking who suddenly found that no one was listening anymore, and things that seemed mighty important back home, like family and money, they amounted to nothing alongside character and courage.
There was John Sampson from our town. He was a man used to being told to do things, used to looking up to wealth and power, but when he crossed the Mississippi he began to lift his head and look around. He squared his shoulders, put more crack to his whip and began to make his own tracks in the land.
The best version of L ‘Amour, in this reader’s eyes, is the man who has seen much and is able to dispense that wisdom, whether it be of land, people, or history with a gentle hand. One that never makes the “lesson” feel like medicine, but always rock-solid edification couched in an easy style.
This story is the author at his best. Let’s let him close out this offering.
Time to time the men had stopped by to help a little, but next morning nobody came by. We got lined out about as soon as ever, and ma said to me as we sat on the wagon seat, “Pay no attention, Bud. You’ve no call to take up anything if you don’t notice it. There will always be folks who will talk, and the better you do in the world the more bad things they will say of you. Back there in the settlement you remember how the dogs used to run out and bark at our wagons?’
“Yes, ma.”
“Did the wagons stop?”
“No, ma.”
“Remember that, son. The dogs bark, but the wagons go on their way, and if you’re going some place you haven’t time to be bothered with barking dogs.”

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