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The Last of the Plainsmen (1908)

09 Jul
Credit: Zane Grey: From the 1911 Grosset & Dunlap edition

Credit: Zane Grey: From the 1911 Grosset & Dunlap edition

Hodder and Stoughton, 1908

In his introduction to The Last of the Plainsmen Zane Grey writes:

In the spring of 1907 I was the fortunate companion of the old plainsman on a trip across the desert, and a hunt in that wonderful country of yellow crags, deep canyons and giant pines. I want to tell about it. I want to show the color and beauty of those painted cliffs and the long, brown-matted bluebell-dotted aisles in the grand forests; I want to give a suggestion of the tang of the dry, cool air; and particularly I want to throw a little light upon the life and nature of that strange character and remarkable man, Buffalo Jones.

The San Francisco Peaks as viewed from Elden Mountain;  Credit: Tyler Finvold, 30 November 2006

The San Francisco Peaks as viewed from Elden Mountain;
Credit: Tyler Finvold, 30 November 2006

Buffalo Jones belonged to that strange set of hunters that loved hunting predators yet made certain they were alive. He was considered eccentric. One old-timer told Zane Grey:

“Say, young feller, I heerd yer couldn’t git acrost the Canyon fer the deep snow on the north rim. Wal, ye’re lucky. Now, yer hit the trail fer New York, an’ keep goin’! Don’t ever tackle the desert, ‘specially with them Mormons. They’ve got water on the brain, wusser ‘n religion. It’s two hundred an’ fifty miles from Flagstaff to Jones range, an’ only two drinks on the trail. I know this hyar Buffalo Jones. I knowed him way back in the seventies, when he was doin’ them ropin’ stunts thet made him famous as the preserver of the American bison. I know about that crazy trip of his’n to the Barren Lands, after musk-ox. An’ I reckon I kin guess what he’ll do over there in the Siwash. He’ll rope cougars—sure he will—an’ watch ’em jump. Jones would rope the devil, an’ tie him down if the lasso didn’t burn. Oh! he’s hell on ropin’ things. An’ he’s wusser ‘n hell on men, an’ hosses, an’ dogs.”

On their journey together Jones and Grey had their Mormon guides, five hounds and their horses.

The falls shown in this photograph were 28 feet high pre-1907;  Credit: H.T. Cory

The falls shown in this photograph were 28 feet high pre-1907;
Credit: H.T. Cory

Zane Grey got to experience the fear of the old version of the Colorado River (Rio Colorado).

They arrived at Jones’ ranch and Zane Grey got meet Buffalo Jones farm-hands. Jones’ farm-hands played a mustang-prank on Grey so they could test his mettle. When they went out to take a look at Jones Cattalo, the ranch-hands gave Zane Grey a frisky white mustang so he could be challenged beyond his abilities. Grey ended up calling that mustang Satan.

Cattalo;  Credit: J.H. Cano

Cattalo;
Credit: J.H. Cano

Jones and Grey leave the ranch and continue through their adventures of trying to catch the last buffalo herd, avoid fighting with Native Americans, keeping hydrated in the desert, listening to their guides and hunting for predators.

The Last of the Plainsmen is an interesting look at the journey of two Westerners in a country that had changed irrevocably during the life of the last of the plainsmen who just happened to be one of them.

I spoke the last good-by and turned Satan into the narrow trail. When I looked back Jones stood on the rim with the fresh glow of dawn shining on his face. The trail was steep, and claimed my attention and care, but time and time again I gazed back. Jones waved his hand till a huge jutting cliff walled him from view. Then I cast my eyes on the rough descent and the wonderful void beneath me. In my mind lingered a pleasing consciousness of my last sight of the old plainsman. He fitted the scene; he belonged there among the silent pines and the yellow crags.

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The Last of the Plainsmen available on Gutenberg

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Reviews:

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Translations:

 

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University of Arizona, special collections: Title page

University of Arizona, special collections: Draft ch 15

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Posted by on 2014-07-09 in Books

 

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