The Popular Magazine Mar 1, Mar 15, Apr 1, Apr 15, May 1 1913
Harper & Brothers, New York, 1913
Field and Stream Jan, Feb, Apr, Jul 1915, Feb, Apr 1916
Zane Grey’s Western Magazine Jun 1948
Zane Grey’s Western Magazine (Australia) Jan 1950, Dec 1956
I have created a post of the prologue of Desert Gold. Victor Carl Friesen has commented on it being a short-story all by itself, and I thought I would follow up on that idea (ZGsWW)
Desert Gold was set to about 1911 in Altar Valley in Arizona and the Pinacate Range in Sonora (ZGWS).
Adventure is a vague term, a term often used as something people long for. “My life is so boring, why can’t something exciting happen?” As a child I often found myself romanticizing the lives of the main characters of Zane Grey’s novels. “I want that” is one thought that would go through my head (in Norwegian: “Jeg skulle ønske det kunne skje med meg”). Then adventure of a different sort came into my life and I discovered it was not how I thought it would be. Reading Zane Grey’s texts now makes me appreciate the life I have even more. The “good old days” simply were not especially “good”.
Richard Gale is at the point I was before my own adventures. He wanted away from the demands of his life. So, he did what a lot of people of the same mind in the US at that time did. He went West, to New Mexico. Around 1911 New Mexico was definitely an adventurous place with plenty of danger and excitement. Richard Gale embraces that adventure and finds himself both loving and hating it.
It was reflection such as this, only more serious and perhaps somewhat desperate, that had brought Gale down to the border. For some time the newspapers had been printing news of Mexican revolution, guerrilla warfare, United States cavalry patrolling the international line, American cowboys fighting with the rebels, and wild stories of bold raiders and bandits. But as opportunity, and adventure, too, had apparently given him a wide berth in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, he had struck southwest for the Arizona border, where he hoped to see some stirring life. He did not care very much what happened. Months of futile wandering in the hope of finding a place where he fitted had inclined Richard to his father’s opinion.
Richard Gale’s father is the Governor. His father is like many of Zane Grey’s fathers. Mr. Gale expects Richard (Dick) to fail and come crawling back home to daddy.
In Casita Dick meets an old friend. George Thorne is with the Ninth Cavalry of the army. Their assignment is to patrol the border and to the best of their ability uphold the peace. Richard’s arrival is at a time when Mexico seems just about to erupt in revolution. George is glad his commission expires in three months. At the time Dick met George, George was trying to get his sweetheart back from the rebel leader Rojas. Richard helps Thorne rescue Mercedes Castanrdes.
In Desert Gold Rojas is called the Robin Hood of the poor. Pancho Villa held that role in real life. Like Rojas Villa was a strict leader. Many of the deeds performed by Villa are the same as the ones performed by Rojas in Desert Gold. Loved by some hunted by others.
Thorne sends Richard and Mercedes into the desert. He is afraid of what Rojas and his people will do. George has to return to his division and help them out against any potential explosion from the Mexican side.
In the desert Dick and Mercedes meets a couple of Anglo cowboys and go with them to the ranch of the Beldings by Forlorn River. Among the Beldings is one Nell. Nell is a lovely young girl with whom all young men seem to fall in love. She and Richard are about to become the main couple of the story with George and Mercedes as their side-kicks.
Cowboys, cavalry , bandits, Native Americans and rangers all depend upon their horses. Horses have a large role in Desert Gold. Both greed and friendship play a part in the relationships we see between people and the horses we meet. And it really is no wonder that the relationship between human and horse was close. In their work both Thorne and Gale could be out on the range for days and weeks at a time. Some of the areas they ventured into were inhospitable for life of such size. Depending on the love of your horse could end up being a matter of life or death.
This lonely horseman bestrode a steed of magnificent build, perfectly white except for a dark bar of color running down the noble head from ears to nose. Sweatcaked dust stained the long flanks. The horse had been running. His mane and tail were laced and knotted to keep their length out of reach of grasping cactus and brush. Clumsy home-made leather shields covered the front of his forelegs and ran up well to his wide breast. What otherwise would have been muscular symmetry of limb was marred by many a scar and many a lump. He was lean, gaunt, worn, a huge machine of muscle and bone, beautiful only in head and mane, a weight-carrier, a horse strong and fierce like the desert that had bred him.
The rider fitted the horse as he fitted the saddle. He was a young man of exceedingly powerful physique, wide-shouldered, long-armed, big-legged. His lean face, where it was not red, blistered and peeling, was the hue of bronze. He had a dark eye, a falcon gaze, roving and keen. His jaw was prominent and set, mastiff-like; his lips were stern. It was youth with its softness not yet quite burned and hardened away that kept the whole cast of his face from being ruthless.
Zane Grey’s other favorite character of his novels is one here as well. Arizona, New Mexico and Utah’s natures feature heavily in his story, and according to some critics this where Grey shows his mettle as an author. Others find him too wordy. All of his words strung together makes the landscape come alive for me. There is no doubt in my mind that Grey’s greatest love affair was with the landscapes of his stories. No doubt at all.
- 1921: Erämaan kultaa (Finnish)
- 1960: Gull i Arizona (Norwegian)
- 1971: Wüstengold (German)
- 1932: L’oro del deserto (Italian)
- 1949: Pioggia d’oro (Italian)
Magazines: The Beaver Herald 1923