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The Last of the Plainsmen (1908)

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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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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Wildfire (1916)

Wild Hoofbeats

Wild Hoofbeats: America’s Vanishing Wild Horses
by Carol J. Walker
Credit: Carol J. Walker

Serialized in The Country Gentleman, April 8, 1916 ff.
First book edition published by Harper & Brothers, New York, 1916
Featured in Zane Grey’s Western Magazine, May 1949

My favorite animal on the earth is not humans but horses. Especially the wild ones. I wouldn’t like a stallion attacking me, but its beauty and grace of movement is undeniable. In this Zane Grey novel we get to meet the Mustang Wildfire.

Wildfire - The Country GentlemanLin Slone, one of our main characters, is a horse wrangler. In the 1870’s a horse wrangler was the person that managed the spare horses on cattle drives. The wrangler kept the horses happy and was also the one who knew how to train a newly caught horse (unless he was fresh to the game). Lin Slone is an experienced wrangler who prefers the company of horses and the solitude of nature to the company of people. He is, of course, going to be the man who ends up capturing Wildfire but that capture costs both man and horse a great deal.

Slone was packed and saddled and on his way before the sun reddened the canyon wall. He walked the horses. From time to time he saw signs of Wildfire’s consistent progress. The canyon narrowed and the walls grew lower and the grass increased. There was a decided ascent all the time. Slone could find no evidence that the canyon had ever been traveled by hunters or Indians. The day was pleasant and warm and still. Every once in a while a little breath of wind would bring a fragrance of cedar and pinyon, and a sweet hint of pine and sage. At every turn he looked ahead, expecting to see the green of pine and the gray of sage. Toward the middle of the afternoon, coming to a place where Wildfire had taken to a trot, he put Nagger to that gait, and by sundown had worked up to where the canyon was only a shallow ravine. And finally it turned once more, to lose itself in a level where straggling pines stood high above the cedars, and great, dark-green silver spruces stood above the pines. And here were patches of sage, fresh and pungent, and long reaches of bleached grass. It was the edge of a forest. Wildfire’s trail went on. Slone came at length to a group of pines, and here he found the remains of a camp-fire, and some flint arrow-heads. Indians had been in there, probably having come from the opposite direction to Slone’s. This encouraged him, for where Indians could hunt so could he. Soon he was entering a forest where cedars and pinyons and pines began to grow thickly. Presently he came upon a faintly defined trail, just a dim, dark line even to an experienced eye. But it was a trail, and Wildfire had taken it.

Slone halted for the night. The air was cold. And the dampness of it gave him an idea there were snow-banks somewhere not far distant. The dew was already heavy on the grass. He hobbled the horses and put a bell on Nagger. A bell might frighten lions that had never heard one. Then he built a fire and cooked his meal.

It had been long since he had camped high up among the pines. The sough of the wind pleased him, like music. There had begun to be prospects of pleasant experience along with the toil of chasing Wildfire. He was entering new and strange and beautiful country. How far might the chase take him? He did not care. He was not sleepy, but even if he had been it developed that he must wait till the coyotes ceased their barking round his camp-fire. They came so close that he saw their gray shadows in the gloom. But presently they wearied of yelping at him and went away. After that the silence, broken only by the wind as it roared and lulled, seemed beautiful to Slone. He lost completely that sense of vague regret which had remained with him, and he forgot the Stewarts. And suddenly he felt absolutely free, alone, with nothing behind to remember, with wild, thrilling, nameless life before him. Just then the long mourn of a timber wolf wailed in with the wind. Seldom had he heard the cry of one of those night wanderers. There was nothing like it—no sound like it to fix in the lone camper’s heart the great solitude and the wild.

Wildfire - Zane Greys Western MagazineLucy Bostil is our female main character. She has just turned 18 (Zane Grey generally liked them young, both in real life and in his novels) and is excited about finally being considered an adult. Her father is horse crazy.

Bostil owns quite a few horses but is always on the look-out for that “one, perfect” wild stallion. I guess you could say that he is one of the bad guys because he is willing to go to any lengths to get one. All of Grey’s story try to impart the “Code of the West” on to his reader. One of those codes is “If it’s not your, don’t take it”. Losing his best friend is worth it just so he might retain the status of having the best mustangs.

In my mind I see Bostil as any other addict. He is so caught in the grip of his addiction that he will sacrifice family, friends and reputation to get the drug of his choice. Addiction is very much a mental disease and one from which recovery is extremely difficult.

Once he has taken care of the competition, Bostil is the one in the county with the finest horse, Sage King. Now others covet what he has. Cordt, the horse thief, wants Bostil’s stallion and he will also do anything to achieve his goal.

Because I happen to be on the side of horses rather than that of people, I am going to say that all the men of this story were greedy bastards who took what they wanted no matter the price the object of their desires had to pay.

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Wildfire on Free Read Australia

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Translations:

  • Finnish: Tuliharja; Engström, Don; Helsinki: Taikajousi, 1980.
  • German: Wildfeuer; Werner, Hansheinz; München, AWA Verlag, 1953
  • Hungarian: Futótűz; Lendvai, István; Budapest: Nyiry Z., 1995.
  • Italiano: Wildfire; Pitta, Alfredo; I Nuovi Sonzogno, 1966 (Copertina: Guido Crepax)
  • Norwegian: Hestekongens datter; Gundersen, Rolf / Oslo: Fredhøi, 1917. (Gratis tilgang Nasjonalbibilioteket for norske IP-adresser)
  • Polish: Płomień; Sujkowska, Janina; Warzawa: M. Arcta, 1936
  • Portugese: Fogo selvagem; Passos, Maria Margarida & Sousa, Homem de; Lisboa, Agencia Portuguese de Revistas, 1957.
  • Serbo-Croatian: Grey, Zen; Divlji plamen; Škunca, Stanko; Rijeka, Otokar Keršovani, 1961
  • Slovenian: Wildfire; Klinar, Stanko; Ljubljana, Državna založba Slovenije, 1962.
  • Spanish: Huracán; Fernández, José; Barcelona, Juventud, 1933

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Sources

 
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Posted by on 2014-06-29 in Books

 

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Wild Horse Mesa (1928)

Major John Wesley Powell (1834-1902), seated on horseback and inquiring a Native American of the Paiute tribe, for the way to the water pocket at the Kaibab Plateau, 1873; by Hillers, John K. 1843-1925;  Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 18, Folder: 57

Major John Wesley Powell (1834-1902), seated on horseback and inquiring a Native American of the Paiute tribe, for the way to the water pocket at the Kaibab Plateau, 1873; by Hillers, John K. 1843-1925;
Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 18, Folder: 57

The Country Gentleman, 26 April – 5 July 1924
Harper and Brothers, 1928

Wild Horse Mesa is set in the 1890s around the Kaiparowits Plateau in Utah (ZGWS). Victor Carl Friesen’s commentary on Wild Horse Mesa (see below) set me straight about my misconception about what a cowboy was. Wild Horse Mesa is about horses. So that means NO cowboys. Horse-wranglers are handlers/trainers of horses.

Zane Grey turns up in varied places. It is clear that many horse crazy people (at least in the US) are aware of who he was. One of them, a horse lover very much like this story’s main character (Chane Weymer), has a stallion named after the author (Dale Esther). His Zane Grey was as desirable as Wild Horse Mesa’s own Panquitch. I love horses too. Not in the sense that I own any, but in the sense that I would defy my mother’s injunctions against crossing a field rumored to be full of snakes (in Australia) to see the herd one farmer owned. The moment I thought of them every other thought would drop out of my head and I would defy even spankings to see my beloved horses (in the true spirit of my Aspergers). Since then their beauty and strength and ornery nature have stayed as a major component of my make-up.

Cowboys participating in a wild horse roundup;  Photo by: B & C Gillingham

Cowboys participating in a wild horse roundup;
Photo by: B & C Gillingham

Herds of wild horses roamed the deserts and prairies of the West and Utah. Horse wranglers, Native Americans and Cowboys were what kept the mustangs alive despite an increasing dislike of their numbers and presence. Some people would rather have cattle or sheep. Because mustangs were needed as work animals, not all of them could be killed.

Panquitch and his herd live in one of the less available areas, something that would make it a “safe place” for the horses. But not safe enough. Chane Weymer wants Panquitch even though his own horse is supposed to be a superior specimen. He is not alone in wanting to domesticate the wildness out of Panquitch.

Sølvpilen med sterke MånestråleAnother love of mine were Native Americans, especially the Kiowa people. Why the Kiowa, you may ask (probably not)? Here in Norway we had a comics series called “Sølvpilen” about the Kiowa leader, Sølvpilen, his blood-brother, Falk, and the Kiowa woman, Månestråle (the most wonderful female character I knew).

I feel certain my views of what the Kiowa were had to be extremely off the mark, but having a strong female character at that time was unusual. Strong and beautiful. I believe I was in love with all three of them. While my views were off the mark, I do believe that they showed me that there was another side to the story of the Cowboys and Indians. The Indians weren’t the “bad guys” and the Cowboys the “good guys”. This view was a stronger version of the one I found in the books of Zane Grey. Except for in the story of Wild Horse Mesa.

In Wild Horse Mesa one of our main characters is a Piute man called Toddy Nokin. At the time Wild Horse Mesa was supposed to be set  Piute tribal land had been reduced to 5% of the original territory. Meeting the Europeans led to death from various causes such as disease and fighting for the right to live on traditional lands. (Haines & Hillstrom) This could be one reason why Zane Grey set this story where he did.

Toddy Nokin’s daughter, Sosie, is another person we meet in Wild Horse Mesa. She, too, would like to ride Panquitch and her father being a horse-catcher and tamer is not a detriment to her cause. Thankfully, for Chane, both he and Toddy are friends, and so the three of them are not at cross-purposes.

Government Boarding School for Girls Uintah and Ouray Reservation Whiterocks, Utah, MRL 10: G.E.E. Lindquist Papers, 63, 1662, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Government Boarding School for Girls Uintah and Ouray Reservation Whiterocks, Utah, MRL 10: G.E.E. Lindquist Papers, 63, 1662, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Sosie is in the process of being civilized in an Anglo school. At this time Piute children were being sent to boarding schools and expected to behave in a manner the Anglos thought was civilized. Any Piute who wanted to retain his/her traditional ways were denigrated by the Inspectors and Indian Agents of the time. Zane Grey thought this type of assimilation was the wrong way to go. Sosie shows just how problematic this “civilizing” of the Native American was. Her socialization made it seem as though she thought herself superior to her family and friends left behind at home. Nor was she accepted as a true member of the Anglo community. Her color was wrong.

These three and Chane’s brother Chess and Bent Manerube (ends up being the bad guy) belong to one horse-wrangler camp. the Loughbridge camp is the other horse-wrangling camp that comes into play in Wild Horse Mesa. In it we find Mel Melberne and his family (daughter Sue) and Jim Loughbridge and his family (daughter Ora). Love happens between the younger generation but not without all of Zane Grey’s fall-pits in place.

And there you have it folks. All of the elements are present for a rip-roaring read of yet another Zane Grey tale.

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Wild Horse Mesa on World Catalog

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Reviews:

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Films/Movies

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Translations:

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In Defense of Self: Identity and Place in Pyramid Lake Paiute History

Kaiparowits Plateau

Piutes

The Piute Tribe of Utah

Wild Horses of America, A History (Stunning photography)

 
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Posted by on 2014-06-08 in Books

 

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