Tag Archives: #ComanchePeople

The Trail Driver: Zane Grey (1931)

Translator: Hansheinz Werner

Translator: Hansheinz Werner

Zane Grey’s stories were mainly written to entertain. Entertainment was achieved through action- and romance-driven stories. For a story written in the early 1900’s, there was quite a bit of cussing and violence. Readers should be aware of changes in word-usage. Commonly used words back then are considered racist today. Views expressed in The Trail Driver romanticize cowboys and discriminate against women, Native-Americans and African-Americans. In most ways The Trail Driver is representative of the propaganda of its day (Wisniewski/Nakamura).

Comment by Zane Grey in 1936, Cant, C.C. (2008)

American tribes

Portion of US map compiled by Aaron Carapella detailing Americans in the US before Europeans invaded

By the time of the cattle-drives, most of the Plains Indian tribes had been decimated in the genocide of Native American (Jawort). The Comanche were too busy trying surviving the American Army to fight cattle drives for anything but survival (Miheshua, p. 14).

The Trail Driver enters the US at a turning-point of the cattle-drives (1871). It was first published as a serial in McCall’s Magazine, Oct. 1931—Feb. 1932 and later published as hard-cover by Harper & Bros in 1935. Friesen points out that Zane Grey got the crossing of the Chisholm Trail at Doan’s Store wrong. Other than that, Grey seems to have his facts straight. (VC Friesen, ch. 27).

Adam Brite is a Euro-American, middle-aged, single and childless man. He has just made a profit off a run on the Chisholm-trail and seeks to further that profit by a second run. This time he is overly optimistic in buying 4500 head of long-horns (ornery buggers) plus about 200 mustangs for his remuda.

“A 12-man crew could manage a herd of 2,000 to 3,000 head. The trail boss was the ultimate authority on the trail, like the captain of a ship, and was paid $100 to $125 a month. Of the rest of the crew, the cook was the most important, earning about $60 per month.” (Texas Almanac)

Adam’s role in the story is that of father-figure. He joins in the work and tries to not play favorites. In many ways Brite’s role is to point out to the reader what might be going on inside people’s heads: “that the Uvalde cowboy had been shot through the heart by something vastly different from a bullet.” Sometimes he pranks Joe or Reddie if the mood hits him. I guess Adam is a greedy, kind-hearted racist man who was somewhat aware of his own racism.

The foreman Adam got himself has an excellent reputation. Like any good owner, he lets Texas Joe Shipman handle the crew as Joe sees fit. Joe is “tall amber-eyed, tawny-haired young giant might well play havoc with the heart of any fancy-free girl“. Fortunately, he is much more than that. He has to keep the feisty crew in check. Like he says: “I reckon I gotta make myself disliked,” The person he struggles most with (in true Zane Grey romance style) is Reddie Blayne. Joe organizes defense and offense against cattle-rustlers (Russ Hite and gang) and deals with Commanches. His worst problems are the combination of weather and long-horn cattle. .

Joe brings his friend Less Holden along “No better ever forked a hawse. But Less is the wildest hombre.” We don’t see much of Less during the story. His character is one on the outskirts of the crew and its adventure. Less calls himself a “walking calendar” due to his ability to figure out what day it is. The explanation is quite mundane, but I do not want to be a spoil-sport.

Library of Congress

Photo by William Henry Jackson, 1843-1942

Alabama Moze is the cook. “It took no second glance for the boss to be assured that this cook was a treasure“. He brought his own stocked chuck-wagon. In addition to being the place where food is made, the cowhands sleep under it if it rains. Alabama’s job is tough. In addition to getting up hours before the drivers and wranglers, Alabama has to haul wood whenever it was available or use dried cow/buffalo-turds for his fire. At times the chuck-wagon has to be hauled across rivers that sometimes went wild. Alabama is African-American. Grey shows us how African-Americans were usually (Massey, SA) treated on cattle-runs, “... On the trail it was not usual for any rider to share the tasks of a negro. Manifestly Pan Handle Smith was a law unto himself…”. Being the cook, Alabama was probably treated better than regular African-American cow-hands. He is the only one of the crew whose fate we do not learn.

Pan Handle Smith is a gun-fighter and “might have rode up this Trail with Jesse Chisholm an been doin’ it ever since.” Giff MacShane told me that Pan is Pecos Smith in West of the Pecos. When Adam hires him, Smith is looking to get out of San Antonio. Gun-fighters weren’t bad guys/gals per se. “Pan Handle Smith had been outlawed, but he had really been more sinned against than sinning.” During the story, Smith calms tempers in both cattle and feisty teen-agers and supports Shipman as foreman.

The Uvalde quintet are “de finest an’ fightenest boys I ever seen,“. Their leader is Deuce Ackerman who “appeared to be the most forceful personality“, a quality needed to handle his friends. We see more of him than the other four. San Sabe comes a close second. San Sabe “had Indian or Mexican blood, and his lean shape wore the stamp of vaquero.” He has a lovely voice and it works wonders “That was the magic by which the trail drivers soothed the restless long-horns.” Rolly Little is “small and round. He had yellow hair, a freckled face, and flashing brown eyes, as sharp as daggers.” Ben Chandler is a “typical Texas youth, long, rangy, loose-jointed, of sandy complexion and hair, and eyes of clear, light blue“. His drinking problem gets him into serious trouble with Deuce, Joe and Adam. Roy Hallett is the last of the five. He is “a quiet, somber, negative youth“.

In addition, Adam is joined by Hal Bender, “the tenderfoot from Pennsylvania, appeared to be a hulking youth, good natured and friendly, though rather shy“, and Whittaker (no first name) was “a red-faced, sleepy-eyed, young rider of twenty-two, notable for his superb physique“. Finally, at Pecan Swale, their first stop, their last addition in the form of Reddie Bayne arrives: “Before the rider stopped Brite answered to a presagement not at all rare in him—that there were meetings and meetings along the trail. This one was an event.” Brite is correct in his presentiment. No Reddie, no The Trail Driver.

Artist: Edward Rapier, July 27, 1878

Artist: Edward Rapier, July 27, 1878

Shortly after the arrival of Reddie, Grey reveals that Bayne is a girl. While not common, women on the trail were a known phenomenon. They chose this tough life for many reasons. “An’ I got the idee pretendin’ to be a boy would make it easier. Thet helped a lot. But I’d always get found oot.” Turns out the last boss who found her out wants her back. Wallen, a rancher from Braseda, is a nasty guy. He rides into the camp at Pecan Swale demanding Reddie: “… I want this rider, Reddie Bayne. He come to me in a deal I made with Jones at Braseda.” At this point the crew learns that Reddie is a girl. Adam has known it for some time.

Wallen is joined by Ross Hite. Ross is a cattle- and mustang-rustler. “Humph! Mebbe Hite is at the haid of this new game,” declared the boss, seriously. “Cattle-drivers sometimes lose half their stock from stampeders. I’ve heahed of one whole herd bein’ stole.” To add to the tension of the story, Grey throws in Comanche raiders.

The Indian mustangs were haltered to the saplings at the edge of the glade. What a ragged, wild-eyed bunch! They had nothing but halters. These they strained against at every rifle-shot. And more than a few of them faced the covert where the drivers lay in ambush. They had caught a scent of the whites. Heads were pointed, ears high, nostrils quivering.

Even the weather conspires to make life miserable for the drivers. In real life, the weather and ornery nature of the long-horns were enough of a challenge on most drives.

The night fell dark, with rumble of thunder and sheet lightning in the distance. The tired cattle bedded down early and held well all night. Morning came lowering and threatening, with a chill wind that swept over the herd from the north. Soon the light failed until day was almost as dark as night. A terrific hailstorm burst upon the luckless herd and drivers. The hailstones grew larger as the storm swept on, until the pellets of gray ice were as large as walnuts. The drivers from suffering a severe pounding passed to extreme risk of their lives. They had been forced to protect heads and faces with whatever was available. Reddie Bayne was knocked off her horse and carried senseless to the wagon; San Sabe swayed in his saddle like a drunken man; Texas Joe tied his coat round his sombrero and yelled when the big hailstones bounced off his head; bloody and bruised, the other drivers resembled men who had engaged in fierce fistic encounters.

I still enjoy Zane Grey’s stories, but keep on wondering how I would read them if I was Native American or African American. Whenever gender bias comes up, I’m jarred out of the flow. That is most likely a good thing and might well have to do with my sense of fairness evolving. Reading stories that were written almost 100 years ago, is always a strange experience. Noting that many stories today are still as problematic is kind of depressing.

During its heyday, between 1867 and 1884, some five million cattle and an equal number of mustangs were moved along the trail. 

The Trail Driver is available for free at Faded Page and Roy Glashan’s Library



  • Croatian: Gonič stada; Translator: Omer Lakomica; Rijeka, Otokar Keršovani, 1966
  • Czech: Jezdci z pastvin; Translator:  Jaroslava  Vojtěchová; Praha: Olympia (to 1992), 1965
  • Finnish: Aavikon ratsastaja; Translator: Werner Anttila; Porvoo, Helsinki, W. Söderström, 1939
  • German: In der Prärie; Translator: Dr. Franz Eckstein, Berlin, Th. Knaur Nachf, 193
    • Sie kämpften sich durch; Translator: Hansheinz Werner; München: F. Schneider, 1969
    • In der Prärie; Translator: Hansheinz Werner; München: Heyne, 1981
  • Hungarian: A vöröshajú leány; Translator: Ruzitska Mária; Budapest, Palladis, 1937
  • Italian: La lunga pista; Translator: Simonetta Damiani; Milano, Sonzogno, 1968 (Cover artist: Guido Crepax)
  • Norwegian: Texas Joe; Translator: Claes Henrik Jaeger; Oslo, Ingar Weyar Tveitan, 1958
    • Chisholm-ruten; Translator: Claes Henrik Jaeger; Oslo, Fredhøi, 1982
  • Portugese: O guia da montanha; Translator: Fernanda Pinto Rodrigues; Lisboa: Ag. Port. de Revistas, 1959
  • Spanish: El conductor de manadas; Translator: Lino Novás Calvo / José Luis Fernández; Barcelona, Juventud, 1937




Posted by on 2016-06-08 in Books


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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

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.


The Last of the Plainsmen available on Gutenberg








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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The Thundering Herd (Unabridged version: Buffalo Stampede) (1924)


Photograph from the mid-1870s of a pile of American bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer.

Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1924
Harper and Brothers, 1925 (abridged)
Sure-Fire Screen Stories, February 1934
Zane Grey’s Western Magazine, October 1950
The Thundering Herd is available for free on Project Gutenberg

Once again Zane Grey had turned out to be too controversial in his for his times.

Bison population survey photograph, Wood Buffalo National Park (17 July 1946)

Bison population survey photograph, Wood Buffalo National Park (17 July 1946)

More wild buffalo have been slaughtered in America in the past ten years than at any time in the last century. Capitalizing on the Indian’s complete dependence upon the buffalo, 19th century government leaders launched a campaign to wipe them out, and in so doing, force the Indians into a sedentary lifestyle more in line with the prevailing European notions of private property and “civilization.” Secretary of Interior Columbus Delano made the following remarks in 1873, a year after Yellowstone National Park was established:

“The civilization of the Indian is impossible while the buffalo remains upon the plains. I would not seriously regret the total disappearance of the buffalo from our western prairies, in its effect upon the Indians, regarding it as a means of hastening their sense of dependence upon the products of the soil and their own labors.”
–Annual Report of the Department of the Interior

Illus. in: Harper's Weekly, 1874 Dec. 12, v. 18, no. 937. LC-USZ62-55602; Credit: Library of Congress

Illus. in: Harper’s Weekly, 1874 Dec. 12, v. 18, no. 937. LC-USZ62-55602;
Credit: Library of Congress

The Thundering Herd is about the period of 1874-1877, a time when buffalo were killed without thought of ecosystems. We find ourselves in Texas along the Red River & Pease River headwaters and Llano Estacado (ZGWS). Zane Grey explains his inspiration:

“From Buffalo Jonos I first heard about the millions of buffalo on tho plains in the early days—the vast thundering herds—and the stories’of how they were massacred for their hides and bones. Hides Bold as cheap as twenty-five cents. This slaughter was one ot the bloodiest carnages in the history of tho world, and a terrible blunder. For tho buffalo were superior to cattle, and would have enriched our great West. But they were butchered In a few short years. I determined to write the story ot the vanishing ot the thundering herds, and set about getting my material.” (The Hutchinson News, 4 April 1925, p. 10)

Part of the explanation of the massive slaughter of the buffalo was not only due to the influence of the Department of the Interior, although the mission set by them would lend legitimacy to the fervor or its carrying out. A technical advance in weaponry enabled the exterminators to kill without being spotted beforehand by the buffalo. In addition a new method of tanning was developed. All of a sudden the whole world wanted buffalo hides and they could have them at more affordable prices. Buffalo City came to life. (Native American)

Arapaho camp with buffalo meat drying near Fort Dodge, Kansas, 1870. ARC Identifier 518892; Credit: National Archives

Arapaho camp with buffalo meat drying near Fort Dodge, Kansas, 1870. ARC Identifier 518892;
Credit: National Archives

Once again Zane Grey uses the power of the written word to engage his audience in an important issue of his time. We aren’t just getting a romance when he writes about Tom Doan joining the buffalo hunters going into the Southwest’s inhospitable Staked Plain. Before the decimation of the buffalo herds there were probably somewhere between twenty-five to seventy million individuals (BFC) roaming the prairies. After the settlers were done with them there were probably only about 334 individuals left (FWS).

Slaughter of that magnitude must do something to a person. It certainly does to Tom Doan. He finds himself baptised in blood and gore. I don’t know if the Europeans expected the Native Americans to just sit back and let them go on with their killing. After all, the bison were an integral part of the lifestyles of the plains-indians. So Tom Doan finds himself fighting the Comanches and Kiowas, other white hunters, and himself.

Early on the ninth morning of that long journey Tom and Stronghurl forded the Pease River, at a dangerous crossing, and entered the zone of slaughter. No live buffalo were in sight, but the carcasses left by the advancing hunters polluted the summer air and made of the prairie a hideous shambles. They passed thousands and thousands of bone piles and rotten carcasses; and as they advanced the bone piles became fewer and the solid carcasses more. Coyotes in droves, like wild dogs, fought along the road, regardless of the wagons. Indeed, many of them were so gorged that they could not run. And as for buzzards, they were as thick as crows in a Kansas cornfield in October, likewise gorged to repletion.

The wake of the hide-hunters was something to sicken the heart of the stoutest man and bring him face to face with an awful sacrifice.

Tom verified another thing that had long troubled him and of which he had heard hunters speak. For every single buffalo that was killed and skinned there was one which had been crippled and had escaped to die, so that if ever found its hide would be useless. In every ravine or coulee or wash off the main line of travel Tom knew, by investigation of those near where he and Stronghurl camped or halted at noon, there lay dead and unskinned buffalo. If he saw a hundred, how many thousands must there be? It was a staggering arraignment to confront the hide-hunters.

Toward noon of that day herds of live buffalo came in sight, and thereafter grew and widened and showed movement. Tom eventually overhauled a single wagon drawn by four horses, and drew up beside it, asking the usual query.

The Thundering Herd - Cover

The only thing that stands between Tom and the loss of himself to despair at what his life has turned into is the love of a woman. But none of Zane Grey’s stories provide love-birds with easy resolutions and love-lives. In this case we have a step-father who refuses Milly any contact with other men. Milly slowly begins to understand (partly through contact with Tom) that all is not as it should be with her step-father’s band of non-sanctioned hunters.

Blurb for Buffalo Stampede: On his first trip to the West, Zane Grey became friends with Buffalo Jones, the “last of the plainsmen” as he called him in the book he subsequently wrote about him. Jones had been witness to the great herds of buffalo that had once ranged on the Great Plains, and he had been a participant in the destruction of those herds. In early 1923 Grey decided that he would write the epic story of the thundering herds of buffalo, the great hunt that decimated them, and the battle between the Plains Indians and the buffalo hunters. At last, Zane Grey’s magnificent panorama of the war for the buffalo, and against the buffalo, is being published, just as he wrote it, violent and furious action against a background of elegiac sadness for the passing of those mighty, noble herds, the restoration of a literary masterpiece.



  • 1930: Die Donnernde Herde (German)
  • 1952: Bøffelkrigen (Norwegian)
  • 1981: Jylisevät kaviot (Finnish)
  • 1968: La mandria tonante (Italian)
  • 1990: Villdyrjakten (Norwegian)




Posted by on 2014-06-13 in Books


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Fighting Caravans (1929)

The Country Gentleman November 1928 – March 1929
Harper & Brothers, New York, 1929
Zane Grey’s Western Magazine Jun 1950
Zane Grey’s Western Magazine (Australia) Dec 1951, Jun 1958
Zane Grey’s Fighting Caravans; Dell Comics #632; June-August 1955

“When the Santa Fe Trail first opened, in 1821, it began at a village and landing area called Franklin, on the north bank of the Missouri River in the central part of the state of Missouri. It headed west, following the Missouri upstream, across tall grass prairie, to the bend where the river turns sharply to the north. The trail continued on to the west, across the heart of Kansas and through increasingly more elevated, more arid lands. It passed through the site of Council Grove, where the tall grass prairie melted into the mixed grass prairie, and the vicinity of Dodge City, where the mixed grass prairie dissolved into the short grass prairie.” (John J. Sharp)

The Belmet family is getting ready to leave Independence, Missouri to heed the Call of the West. The family traveled with one of the large freight caravans. While waiting to leave the son of the family, Clint, meets a young girl called May Bell. It seems her family will be going along with the Belmets. The settlers are told:

“He said we’d all fight Injuns first, then kill off the buffalo, before we’d go to farmin’.”

Illustrator Paul Strayer

Illustrator Paul Strayer

The times being what they were, women were not ladylike if they killed buffalo or “Injuns”. Their part in the whole adventure was to be a pioneer wife and have children. Change the setting a little and one would think Zane Grey was writing about the US today.

One of the first nights of the journey Mrs. Belmet is killed during a raid. The Belmet dog had stopped any more pioneers from being killed. 19 Comanches died.

Clint Belmet (12) had become great friends with May Bell (8) on the way to Council Grove. When he heard that she and her family were staying there, he felt the loss acutely. Some time later Clint’s father tells Clint that May seems to have been carried off by Indians while her parents were killed.

The story of the killing of May Bell’s family may have risen out of the story of the deaths of Mr. James M. White and his family and traveling companions. (White massacre) The massacre of May Bell’s family was indeed a brutal affair, but as we all know every story has two sides. From the point of view of the Cheyenne it was quite logical to try to keep the invaders from settling down. In his own way Zane Grey tried to acknowledge this two-sided story of the brutality of the West.


Indians watching wagon train. Artist: ???

Clint’s determination to destroy all the Comanche sets in. Meeting Kit Carson only hammers his resolve further into his heart.

By the time our hero meets him, Kit Carson would have been about 50 years old. He served as leader of many a group traveling across the prairies and had many close calls with death and death’s helpers. Another real life character that we meet in this novel is a man called Lucien Bonaparte Maxwell. Along with Kit Carson, Mr. Maxwell led many a settler across the lands of the Native Americans. (Legends of America)

What follows is the story of how Clint grows in his role as a teamster, tracker, killer of men and beasts and learns to live with the death of his father, friends and acquaintances. As time passes Clint changes into what Zane Grey considered an ideal sort of man. But this man was missing something important in his life. Love. Being the romance writer that Zane Grey was, that could not be left unresolved.

Fighting Caravans on Open Library




  • Croatian: Baf, vođa karavana; Translated by Vlatko Šarić; Zagreb, Mladost, 1953
  • German: Kämpfende Karawanen; Translated by Hansheinz Werner; München, Flatau, 1959
  • Hungarian: Harcos karavánok; Translated by Cavallier Margit; Budapest, Palladis, 1940
  • Italian: Carovane combattenti; Translated by Alfredo Pitta; Milano, Casa Edit. Sonzogno, 1932
  • Lithuanian: Kovojantis karavanas; Translated by Antanas Barčius; Kaunas, Šviesa, 1938
  • Norwegian: Prærievognen; Translated by Claes Henrik Jaeger; Oslo, Tveiten, 1959
  • Slovenian; Karavani se bore; Translated by Ivo Pezelj; Rijeka, Otokar Keršovani, 1962
  • Spanish: Caravanas de héroes; Translated by ; Barcelona, Juventud, 1959



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Posted by on 2014-06-07 in Books


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