“Raiders of the Spanish Peaks” first saw light of day in December 1931 as a serial in the recently established magazine “Country Gentleman”. It ran as a six-part story until May 1932. Then, in 1938 it was published by Harper & Bros. Later it reappeared in Zane Grey’s Western Magazine 4(5) in 1950 and as a Dell picturized edition called “The Rustlers” in 1954.
Zane Grey always has a theme for his historical romances. He tries to keep them true to the times, using historical people and places to emphasize his messages. Charles “Buffalo” Jones conveys the importance of understanding stories from its time and place in history. He also tries to convey the idea that all stories have two sides to them. “Raiders of the Spanish Peaks” is set to the 1880s in Kansas and Colorado. At that time Comanchee, Ute, Kiowa and Arapaho tribes were still being removed from lands wanted by cattle ranchers into reservations. Jones refers to one of the darkest times in the history in the US, a time described well in Zane Grey’s “The Thundering Herd“.
Character-wise Grey likes to use men and women (often tenderfeet) who grow into his ideal westerner (see “Code of the West“). “Raiders of Spanish Peaks” is no different in that regard. There are two main characters (Laramie Nelson and Harriet Lindsay) and two secondary characters (Lonesome Mulhall and Lenta Lindsay). Other semi-important ones are Ted Williams, Florence Lindsay, Neale Lindsay, Lester Allen, Luke Arlidge and Mr. and Mrs. Lindsay. “Raiders of Spanish Peaks” starts with Laramie Nelson’s story.
LARAMIE’S horse went lame, and as Wingfoot was the only living creature he had to care for, he halted at midday, without thought of his own needs.
After one too many gun-plays Laramie felt the need to leave a certain Kansas Ranch behind (along with Luke Arlidge). He is a 25-year old Texan gun-slinger and grubrider (a cowhand riding from ranch to ranch finding whatever work was available). With him went his horse, saddle and tack, wool-blanket, canteen, gun and saddlebag. He and Wingfoot found themselves in an idyllic valley in southern central Kansas. He woke to the sound of men up to no good.
“Thet’s my answer, Mulhall,” replied Price, curtly. “I’ll tell somebody yu took yore medicine yellow.”
“——!” burst out the bound rider, furiously. “I knowed it. Yu’re hangin’ me ’cause she has no use fer yu. . . . Go ahead an’ string me up yu ——! . . . She’ll be onto yu. Hank or Bill will give yu away some day. An’ she’ll hate yu——”
“Shet up,” snapped Price, jerking the lasso so tight round Mulhall’s neck as to cut short his speech and sway him in the saddle.
Which is how Laramie and “Lonesome” Mulhall come to ride together. Lonesome has two weaknesses that keep on getting him into trouble. The first he shares with Zane Grey (according to his biographies), women. Lonesome (16) loves them and they love him right back. The second is the itch to acquire whatever is not tied down. Laramie is lonely, and has hopes of Lonesome growing up, so he invites Lonesome along.
They ride into a newish Dodge City to stock up on hardtack, they run into the final member of their threesome: Ted “Track” Williams (19). He is stuck in jail and wants the two to spring him.
“Sheriff and his deputies made a raid to lock up a lot of newcomers. And I happened to be one.”
Times being what they were, Lonesome and Laramie decide to go fulfill his request, and that night the threesome becomes “The Three Range Riders”.
“Laramie’s fame with a gun, Williams’ as a tracker, Lonesome’s irresistible attraction and weakness for women, preceded them in many instances, and in all soon discovered them.”
The three of them could not be parted. If one was hired, all had to be hired. If one was let go, the other two left as well. Jobs weren’t easy to come but Laramie kept the two others in line as much as possible.
… the frontier was changing from the bloody Indian wars and buffalo massacres a few years back to the cattle regime and the development of the rustler. For young men the life grew harder, for not only did the peril to existence increase, but also the peril of moral ruin. The gambler, the prostitute, the rustler, the desperado, the notoriety-seeking, as well as the real gunman, followed hard on the advent of the stock-raising.
Laramie prayed for a miracle. The Three Range Riders decide to give the straight and narrow one more try and come to Garden city. Once the pesky tribes had been driven off, the Fulton brothers laid claim to large sections of the townsite. It is here that Laramie finds a solution to their needs.
“Look out, Lonesome! Duck!” called Tracks, who was ahead.
But the Westerner with the broad-brimmed sombrero let out a whoop.
“Laramie! . . . By the Lord Harry, where’d you come from?”
Quick as a flash Laramie recognized the lean, lined, tanned face with its gray eyes of piercing quality.
“Buffalo Jones or I’m a daid sinner! I shore am glad to meet yu heah.”
The story then changes POV to the Lindsay family. John Lindsay is an “iron-gray-haired man of fifty years, and of fine appearance except for an extreme pallor which indicated a tubercular condition”. He had left Upper Sandusky, OH, with his family to find himself a better climate. His family insisted they go with him so Lindsay sold everything they had. We first meet the family in Garden City at the Elk Hotel. Mrs. NN Lindsay is an anxious person who likes to entertain. His oldest daughter is Harriet “Hallie/Hal” (25), his accountant, financial advisor and money handler and “the sanity and strength of this family“. Florence (19) is the beauty of the family and concerned with beautiful things. Neale (18) is the only boy and his mother’s favourite. Lenta (16) is the most spirited and adventuresome of the four.
John Lindsay bought Spanish Peaks Ranch (“…an old fort. Built by trappers who traded with the Utes an’ Kiowas. There’s a fine spring comes right up inside the patio an’ some big cottonwoods…“) along with 10000 heads of cattle from Lester Allen. Allen told them he would leave a crew led by his foreman, Luke Arlidge. Harriet was not impressed with either of them. All of them were, however, impressed with the man their father brought the next day. Charles “Buffalo” Jones brought with him stories about his life and warnings about what might be waiting considering the reputation of Allen and Arlidge. A few of days later he introduced Lindsay to The Three Range Riders, who agreed to be hired by him.
The rest of “Raiders of Spanish Peaks” continues to change between Laramie and Harriet’s experiences as they travel to the ranch, what they discover when they get there, and the tough and rewarding life waiting for them all. Some parts are really funny, some are tense, some are romantic (in the Jane Austen sense). As with all of his stories, nature also is also a character in “Raiders of Spanish Peaks“.
Gray-sloped, twin-peaked, snow-capped mountains apparently loomed right over her. These must be the Spanish Peaks from which the ranch derived its name. They were her first sight of high mountains and the effect seemed stunning. But they were only a beginning. Beyond rose a wall of black and white which she had imagined was cloud. Suddenly she realized that she was gazing at the magnificent eastern front of the Rocky Mountains. Pure and white, remote and insurmountable, rose the glistening peaks high into the blue sky, and then extended, like the teeth of a saw, beyond her range of vision.
Harriet stared. Greater than amaze and ecstasy something had birth in her. The thing she had waited for all her life seemed to be coming—the awakening of a deeper elementary self. A vague, sweet, intangible feeling of familiarity smote her. But where and when could she ever have seen such a glorious spectacle? Perhaps pictures haunted her. This scene, however, was vivid, real, marvelous, elevating. Lonely and wild and grand—this Colorado!
I think Zane Grey probably had fun with Mulhall’s character. There is a couple of conversations between Laramie and Lonesome about women that may have shocked some readers. His fans were mainly Euro-Americans. That may also be true of most of today’s fans. I would guess that today’s target groups for Zane Grey, and “Raiders of Spanish Peaks“, consist of Western fans and fans of US historical authors.
- Audiobook narrated by John McLain
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- Heyne Western Classics Nr. 2443, 1976
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