Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Comanche Woman

Seeing him on the buffalo robes, she thought, “He tried to die; only he was too strong, too brave.” And she was proud.
Fred Grove’s tale of Comanche captives is offered with attentive care but may suffer from the fact that it was read closely on the heels of similar [and to this reader, better] tales by Dorothy Johnson and Noel M. Loomis.
Good, but in a sea of choices…

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Thief in Camp

“He’s a crow you say? I’ve heard the Crows are born thieves and murderers.”
“Man’s apt to hear most anything he listens to the wrong people.”
Bill Gulick gives us a wagon train tale with a morality overlay. It is a common theme in the genre but Gulick handles it ably. We find the usual “people thrown together finding their way in the land and among each other,” the able Stranger, and an incident where assumptions and realties meet and the reactions to that meeting limns each character.
Fans of L ’Amour’s brand of story will find much to enjoy here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Lost Sister

Our household was full of women, who overwhelmed my uncle Charlie and sometimes confused me with their bustle and chatter. We were the only men in the place. I was nine years old when still another woman came—Aunt Bessie, who had been living with the Indians.
This gorgeous Dorothy M. Johnson story is based in part on Cynthia Ann Parker’s abduction by the Comanche Indians and her giving birth the to the chief Quanah Parker.
This theme of a reluctant return to “society” is a common one, but here it is handled with a gentle grace as seen through a child’s eyes.
Beautifully done.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Bad Company

“Here’s to long ropes and loose hobbles!” he proclaimed. “Let the he-wolves howl and the pant’ers prow!”
Big enough talk, just right for a bold, booted buckaroo. At least he hoped it sounded that way. He stuck the neck of the bottle inside his mouth and pretended to swallow a lot more than he actually did.
S. Omar Barker’s coming of age tale of a good boy falling in with the wrong crowd and finding his way out as a good man is reminiscent of Louis L ’Amour’s better work.
It has the same terse energy and way with drawing characters in brief action and a line here or there that allows you the measure of a person without paragraphs of exposition—a seemingly rare gift among many authors.
Moral in tone, but not in a pastorly sense, more “Ain’t this the way of the world?”
Human stuff.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Gun Job

He dropped the badge into the dust of the street and hurried off, a man who had met defeat and accepted it, a man who could now go back to the clothing store and sell shirts and suits and overalls because that was the job he could do best. There was no indignity in Billy Long’s defeat. He had taken a role he wasn’t equipped to handle, and he was admitting it.
I have a fondness for Thomas Thompson. Many years ago, his was the first Western tale that really spoke to me. A story that showed me that the Western could be more than just formulaic shoot-em-ups, and admittedly, those carbon copies abound, but Thompson was the first author that showed me the humanity and maturity that could be explored in the genre.
My re-visiting this tale shows that Thompson’s power still holds, and I am grateful to him for being the finger that pointed to many fine authors, thrilling and heart-breaking stories, and more than a few places to pause  and ponder as the best of the authors hold a mirror up to ourselves.
Fine story, Mr. Thompson, and thank you very much.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Outcasts of Poker Flat

He was too much of a gambler not to accept fate. With him life was at best an uncertain game, and he recognized the usual percentage in favor of the dealer.
This Bret Harte tale is deeply sentimental, and some may find it borders on the mawkish, but this reader found the craft, the mix of cynicism and sentiment charming as hell.
We occupy most of our time viewing the world through the weary but not unkind eyes of the Gambler. This is a fine place to see the events unfold.
The tale may be brief but there is wall-to-wall skill in the execution.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

Simon Wheeler backed me into a corner and blockaded me there with his chair, and then sat me down and reeled off the monotonous narrative which follows this paragraph. He never smiled, he never frowned, he never changed his voice from the gentle-flowing key to which he tuned the initial sentence, he never betrayed the slightest suspicion of enthusiasm.
This very short tale from Mark Twain is often anthologized. I find the offered quote from the story my own view on the matter. I take it we are to find this wooly tale one of high amusement, but I found myself more in keeping with Twain’s captive audience.
It’s not a badly done wooly tale, but the merit seems to be in its brevity.

Comanche Woman

Seeing him on the buffalo robes, she thought, “He tried to die; only he was too strong, too brave.” And she was proud. Fred Grove’s ...