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Reader's Choice from Louis L’amour's Sackett Series

Treasure Mountain

Now Pa was a knowing kind of man

In a city, folks weren’t out and out what they seemed. Usually they made it a point to show one face while hiding another.

You had to be a man with bark on

Hair slicked down like he’d been licked to be swallowed.

Orrin was no pilgrim. He’d been where the bear walks and the buzzard roosts, and he was uncommon shrewd in the ways of men . . But his record was no good when it came to reading sign on women. . . He had takin’ ways and kind of expected women to like him, which they usually did. . . If Orrin was in trouble you can bet there was a woman around. Of coure, you can say that of most trouble.

It costs nothing to play it safe.

Straight out and straight forward that’s me.

All that speculation,a and aman can get carried away by a reasonable theory. Often a man finds a theory that explains things and he builds atop that theory, finding all the righ answers . . . the basic theory is worng. But that’s the last thing he will want to admit.

When a Sackett breeds enemies he never looks among the weak for them.

I was a man of campfires, line camps and bunkhouses, a drifter with a rope and a saddle and very little else.

A hill boy, if you wish, who’d put in a few years and few calluses on this hands from hard work and on his behind from saddles.

A few scars picked up from places where I shouldn’t have been, maybe I had scars on my heart too, from the few times I’d won only to lose again.

Soft carpets, and white linen and the gleam of expensive glass and silver weren’t for the likes of me. I was born to the smell of pine knots burning, to sleeping under the stars or under a chuck wagon, maybe for the smell of branding iron smoke.

The traps that life lays for a man are not always of steel, nor is the bait what he’d expect.

He shot down my balloon with one word, and it was well he did so, because it was only filled with hot air anyway.

The San Juans . . . Now that’s no little string of hills. There are 14 peaks that go up 14 thousand feet or more, and that’s some of the most rugged country in the whole world. When it starts to snow back in there, you either light a shuck and get out fast or you dig in for winter.

I was seeing the LaPlata River where it comes down from the mountain country, picking little streams as it comes along, tumbling over the rocks, shaded by the sky and the shadows of clouds. The stillness of beaver ponds, broken only by the widening V of a beaver swimming, mirroring the trunks of the aspen, catching the gold of the sun. Canyons quiet as the day after the earth was born, heights where the air was so clear that miles vanished and the faraway mountains of New Mexico showed themselved through the purple haze.

"Ma’am," I said. "I don’t know what it is you are wishful in this life, but you sit down of a night and you pray to God that he’ll let you walk alone a cross a moutain meadow when the wild flowers are blooming."

"There’s majesty in those peaks, ma’am, and grandeur in the clouds, and there’s a far and a wonderful beauty in the distance."

"Have you ever looked upon distances, ma’am? Have you never pulled up your horse when your trail drops off into a black, deep canyon? Brimful with darkness and shadow? Or seen a deer pause on the edge of a meadow and lift its head to look at you standing there still as the trees around to watch it? Have you never seen the trout leaping in a still mountain lake? Ma’am I have and before God . . . that’s country.

Ma’am all those things you want don’t amount to anything. They are just little bits of fluff and window dressing that you think will make you look better in the eyes of folks. You think maybe havin a mite more money will build a wall around you to keep you from what’s creeping up on you. Out there where I come from, there’s folks that want the same things you do and will go just as far to get them, but all of them wind up on the short end of the stick.

As for me, I wouldn’t ruin as easy as you might think. There’s nothing you could offer me that I’d swap for one afternoon ride through the hills, and I mean it. Once a man has lived with mountains, you can’t offer him a home with a prairie dog.

Spanish ranch house styles which were spacious, roomy, and cool

That water down there had melted from high mountain snows not long since. It had trickled down pure and cold from up where the glaciers still live, where the rivers are born.

Soon I’d be riding where that water came from. Here it was muddy with earth, with death, and plants and bugs and whatever man had left in it. Far up there where the snows were the water was pure and cold.

No getting away from it, I was wilderness born and bred and never was I wishful to be far from it. I like to bed down where a man can look up at the stars, where he can taste the wind to test the weather, and where he can watch the wild things about their business. When a man lives with wilderness he comes to an acceptance of death as a part of living, he sees the leaves fall and then rot away to build the soil for other trees and plants to be born. The leaves gather strength from the sun and rain, gathering the capital on which they live to return it to the soil when they die. Only for a time have they borrowed their life from the sum of things, using their small portions of sun, earth and rain some of the chemicals that go into their being—all to be paid back when death comes. All to be used again and again.

Four of us riding west, two from Tennessee, a gypsy and a black man, under the same sun, feeling the same wind.

This was a country of cold and heat with hard winds and strong rains coming along all too often

Camps, fuel, defensive positions ,water, landmarks, travel-sign . . . a man never stops looking.

But what is instinct. Is it the accumulation of everything I’ve ever seen or smelled tickling a place in my memory.

This the kind of place I like. It is one of those lonely, lovely places you have through hell to reach. Many a man’s home is just that I expect.

Sometimes I wonder how much thinking anybody does, and if their life hasn’t shaped every decision for them before they make it.

Folks had it down that I was a wondering man, but most wanderin’ men I’ve known only wandered because of the homes they expected to find . . . hoped to find , I mean .

Like the bear or the wolf, I am curious.

I waited, knowing that he had to tell it in his own way, in his own time.

Seemed to me the situation called for study, and if a body aims to study it’s better done at close range, so I came down from my perch and started around that bend.

She was about three inches of over five feet I’d guess and must have wieghed what it needed to fill that space out proper, with maybe a mite extry here and yonder.

Morning found nobody wishful of using language. We set around glumlike roasting our meat over the fire and drinking coffee.

My eyes wandered over the slope. The human eye has a readiness for patterns. Much is not seen simply because the mind is blind, not the eyes. The eyes see in lines, curves and patterns. Man himself works in patterns, simple or complex, and such things are often evidence of man’s previous presence.

It takes mighty fine discipline to hold men together when trouble is creeping up on you. Yet without discipline there is surely disaster. The best discipline comes from within a man, but you’ll never get a party of men together where all men have it.

A body shouldn’t heed what might be. He’s got to do with what is.

There’s a whole lot of mountain here, and you and me packed a rifle over mountains before either of us was knee high to a possum. Anyway it does no good to pack up and run. A body has to stay in there and fight. No matter how many times you get knocked down, you got to keep getting’ up until the other man quits.

Gold is easier found than kept.

They had their way of life and we had ours and when the white men moved in he did just what the Indians had done before him, He took what land he needed. There were mighty few Indians for the size of the country, and we crowded them like they crowded others. Life had been that way from the beginning of time, and I could see no end to it.

Over there in Europe, the Celts crowded the Picts, and the Saxons crowded the Celts , and then the Normans moved in and took over the country, and it was the same story across the world.

. . . a good man anywhere you find him.


Most of the trouble a man finds in the mountains is when he tries shortcuts or leaves a known way.

It’s wonderful how cramped a country can get when it’s you and a grizzly in the same neighborhood.

Trails are usually made by game or by Indians, then used by late comers. But the trails are there because somebody has found them through trial and error—the best way to get somewhere. If you see an easier way in the mountains, don’t take it. You may walk two or three miles and find yourself standing on the edge of a cliff with no way down.

"Did you you read to them from the book" "No, I just showed them the pictures."

They fought as strong men fight, for the love of battle and because fighting is a part of the life they live.

The indian lived a life that demanded courage, demanded strength, stamina and the will to survive; and the white men who came first to the mountains had such qualities--or they would not have come in the first place and they could not have lasted in the second.

Civilization is a trap for some men, a place of glory for others. The mountains change with years, so must the Indian--the old way is finished for my father as well as for you, for the man of the wilderness whether he be Indian or white.

The white man respects success. For the poor, weak and inefficient he has pity or contempt. Whatever the color of your skin, whatever country you come from, he will respect you if you do well what it is you do.

I am an old man, and I am confused. The trail is no longer clear.

It would be a lonely place to die, but maybe such a place as he’d want, for he was no stay-abed man. He’d always been up and doing, and when it came to that, what better way to go than on a trail somewhere packing a gun and riding the high country.

Sat staring into the flames and feeling the rain fall and the wind blow.

His battle to live is with that world out there, the cold, the rain, the wind, the heat, the drought, and the sun parched pools where water had been. Hunger, thirst, and cold—man’s first enemies and no doubt his last.

This morning that appaloosa really unwound. He was feeling good and it does me no harm to just set up there and let him have at it. Ridin’ easy in the saddle all the time can make a man downright lazy, so when they feel like buckin’ I say let ‘em buck. I don’t care which nor whether . . . . bucked himself into good nature and an appetite.

I’m gonna ride easy into the hills and sort of let it come to me.

I never was much hand at readin’ the faces of womenfolks, nor understandin’ their ways. I go at ‘em too gentlelike, I suspect. Sometimes it’s better to use the rawhide manner.

It was a mighty fine thing setting there getting the feel of the night, a kind of stillness like you’d never felt anywhere else but in the far-off wilderness. There was no vanity here nor greed, there was only a kind of quietness, and the thought came upon me that maybe this was how pa wanted to go, out on some rocky ledge with the whole world falling away before him, a gun in his hand, or a knife—the love of the world in his guts and the going-out of it like an old wolf goes, teeth bared to his enemies.

I never was much to mind where my bones would lie once the good Lord had taken my soul. I had a feeling maybe I’d like to leave myself upon the mountains, my spirit free to lean against the wind.

Death never spent time in my thoughts, for where a man is there is no death, and when death is there a man is gone, or the image of him. Sometimes I think a man walks as many lives as he does trails.

Overhead I saw a great horned owl go sweeping down some mysterious channel of the night, piloted by I know not what urge, what hidden drive. Was it simply that, like me, he loved the forest night and he liked to curve his velvety paths among the dark columns of the spruce?

I am one with the these creatures of the night and of the high places. Like them I love the coolness, the nearness of the stars, the sudden outthrusts of rock that fall off into the unbelievable vastness below.

Seems to me folks waste a sight of time crossing bridges before they get to them. They clutter up their minds with odds and ends that interfere with clear thinking.

It was the kind of view that leaves a man with a feeling of magnificence

Being a man who placed no trust in any future I had not shaped myself.

You’re a right fine looking figure of a woman, but I wouldn’t touch you with a hayfork.

Many men avoid battle not from cowardice, but from fear of cowardice, fear that when the moment of truth comes they will not have the courage to face up to it.

What would I miss most, I wondered, if I should be killed here? The sight of those clouds gathering over the mountains yonder? The smell of woodsmoke and coffee and bacon? The feel of a good horse under me? Or the sunlight through the aspen trees?

I hadn’t a lot to remember, I guess, I’d been to none of the great places nor walked among people of fame. I’d never eaten very fancy nor been to many drama shows. I’d set over many a campfire and slept out under the stars so much I knew all their shapes and formations from looking up at them time after time. There’s been some good horses here and there, and some long trail is and wide deserts I had traveled. I had those memories, and I guess they stacked up to quite a lot when a fellow thought of it . . . I hadn’t a son or a daughter to mourn me. My brothers, yes. But a man needs a woman to cry for him when he goes out. Still I’d want to be the last one to go. I’d want to see her safely to bed before I cashed in my checks. Maybe it is easier for a man to be alone than a woman. I would n’t know about such things.


But I am going to make it. No man should go down the long way without leaving something behind him, and all I’ve got to leave will disappear when the dust settles. A man can carve from stones, he can write fine words or he can do somehing to hold himself in the hearts of people. I hadn’t done any of those things, not yet.

Thing about fightin with folks unused to fightin is that a body should give them time. They get eager to get on with it and haven’t the patience to sit and wait.

A tree that must have fallen five or six years ago lay close by, its trunk breaking up to pay its debt to the soil it came from.

He liked folks, but never expected much of them. He figured we were all human, all weak at times, an mostly selfish. And we all, he figured, had traits of nobility, self-sacrifice, and courage. In short, we were folks, people.

Tyrel never held it against any man for what he did. He trusted nobody for much, liked most people and he was wary. A reasoning, logical brain, unhampered by much sentiment.

It was the one. He’s signed the bill for it. You rest easy wherever you lie.

Each of us has in his mind an image of what believes himself to be.

Mountains are hard upon evil. They don’t hold with it.

It seemed to me I have a lot of living to do.

To the Far Blue Mountains

The scars I carry speak of no easy times, lad.

For some men an acre and a cottage are enough, but not for you. I have tried to fit you for a new life in the new world that’s coming, where a man can be what he’s of a mind to be.

I had my father’s contempt for the courtier who suspends his life from the fingertips of those in power, looking for morsels. I would be beholden to no man.

No man ever worked harder for the future of his son, teaching me all he could from what he had learned.

Honor and pride of person, not wealth.

An empty thing, like dry leaves that blow in the old winds of autumn.

How many do you know that have lurked in the towns, hiding or moving from place to place rather than try a new land? They hide from change, they fear it. We do not.

One must deal fairly, and watch himself against weakness, for they despise that.

"Be wary," he advised me of trusting too much. "Men change and times change, but war and revolutions are always with us."

"Own a bit of ground where you can plant enough to live, and be not far from fuel, for days and nights can be cold. Be friendly with all men and censure none, tell nobody too much of your affairs and remember in all dealings with men, or women, to keep one hand upon the doorlatch . . . in your mind at least.

Men distrust strangers, so have a few places where you are known . . . but not too well. Not even a marsh rat will trust itself to one hole only, so always have an escape route, and more than one, if need be.

Necessity will add to their skill

Each book must be one worth rereading many times, each a book that has much to say, that can lend meaning to a life, help in decisions, comfort one during moments of loneliness. One needed a chance to listen to the words of other men who had lived their lives, to share with them trials and troubles by day and by night in home or in the markets of cities.

The Bible, of course, for aside from religion there is much to be learned of men and their ways in the Bible. It is also a source of comments made or references and figures of speech. No man could consider himself educated without some knowledge of it .

Wise Adapa and the Hidden treasures of the Secret Writing.

If we make the old mistakes the fault will be ours. If we see clearly we can build something new.

"Betters? Who is better unless he makes himself so? You can be one of those for whom laws are made if you will it, or you can be a maker of laws yourself."

DAVID Ingram-Hawkins man who walked across North America from Mexico to Nova Scotia.

"You’ve an appetite," he said grimly. "I hope your teeth are big enough."

To disbeleive is easy; to scoff is simple; to have faith is harder.

Story of boudicaa, who led the Iceni against the Romans.

I do what becomes the moment. If it be a cook-pot, I cook. If it be a needle, I’ll sew, but if a blade be needed, I shall cut a swath.

Blood of Nial

It is the gift of second sight, the gift of looking beyond or back. Nial was a seaman., one of those who foretell events. The story is ancient, and from Iceland, and the mother Nial was the daughter of Ar The Silent, master of a great land in Norway. But Nial was a gifted man, a great talker, and pleader for his people.

Taleiisin the great welsh bard.

The more one learns the more he understands his ignorance. I am simply an ignorant man, trying to lessen his ignorance

Welsh under Madoc.

Always take a cargo of memories, whatever else, for when all is lost the memories remain

Whoever heard of a revolution of fat men?

Though much trouble might come, I had my destination before me.

I had done well with my fishing in troubled waters, but more by good fortnue than by my own efforts, although I had not hesitated when it was time to act, and sometimes that is the whole face of it.

Gosnold, weymouth and Newport

" It is the ultimate feat of maturity, and many find excuses for avoiding it because they know they are not up to the challenge, or capable of carrying on a mature relationship

Who can read what is in tomorrow’s mind

Forever the dream is in the mind, the realization in the hands.

The ideal situation may exist, but not the ideal people.

A lonely life, but a wild, free life.

In wisdom there is often pain.

"Who is it for whom one becomes wise? Is it not for the people? For his people? Did I become wise only for myself? I become wise to advise, to help . . . but they do not believe and my voice is only an echo in an empty canyon. I speak for my ears only and the sound is hollow.

To cross the wide ocean must never have been a problem. All that was needed was the courage, the desire, for men had sailed farther, long before.

Folks crowd me . I like the wild, lonesome country. I like the far-looking places. It aint in me to live with folks. It’s the trees, the rivers, the lake and the wild animals I need. Maybe I’m one of them . . . a wild animal myself.

I have followed my dream of mountains, too. And so must it be for each generation, for they must ever look to the mountains. (HAWKWOOD!!!)

Grown up on stories known to the Catawba and the Cherokee, to the Irish and Stories of Scheherazade, the Katha Sairt Sagara, the Ocean of Story as gathered by Somadeva.

Catawba story of the beginning of things, stories of Cuchulainn or of Conn of the Hundred Battles, and to the Irish kings who lived on Tara. Stories of Achilles and Ulysses and of Xenophon’ s retreat of the ten thousand. Stories of Ali Baba and Sinbad, of Rustum and his fabled horse, Raqsh,

Story of God and of Jesus and mary and of Allah and Mohammed and the story of Wakonda the Sky spirit. Learned of weaving, a love of good wood and the uses of it and a love of the earth and the magic of making things grow,




I turned away sharp, ired by ________________

He looked to be a horse and wife beater

Now there’s no accounting for the notions of womenfolks, particularly when they’re 16

She had quite surprising flow of language, shocking to a man of my sensibilities and no doubt to her under other circumstance. She knew all the worlds and the right emphasis.

Colorado? It’s a pure and lovely land beyond the buffalo grass where the mountains run up to the sky. Snow on ‘em the year ‘round and the mountains make our Tennessee hills look like dirt thrown up by a gopher.

It’s a far wide land with the long grass rippling in the wind with the sun upon it. A body can ride for weeks and see nothing but prairie and sky. . . unless it’s wild horses or buffalo.

Mostly a man just thinks about women, and they all get to look mighty fine after a while. A body forgets how mean and contrary they can be, and he just thinks of them as if they were angles or something.

Nobody ever needed an army when they had Galloway, and maybe one other Sackett. . . It didn’t make much difference which one.

Seems to me a man can most usually take time to contemplate, and if he does it will save him a lot of riding and a lot of headaches.

Nobody ever did fluster that boy. He was a soft-talking man, but he was tough, and so tough he wore out his clothes form the inside out.

A man could do just about what he was big enough to do.

Didn’t take much pushing. It is in their natures to dig in their heels and push back

This was an uncomplicated country, as a new country usually is. Folks had feelings and ideas that were pretty basic, pretty down to earth, and they had no time to worry about themselves or their motives. It was a big wide empty country and a man couldn’t hide easy. Folks who have something to hide usually head for the big cities., crowded places where they can lose themselves among the many. In open western country, a man stood out too much.

If he was a dangerous man, everybody knew it sooner or later; and if he was a liar or a coward that soon was known and he couldn’t do much of anything.

If he was honest and nervy, it didn’t take long for him to have friends and a reputation for square-dealiing. He could step into some big deals with no more capital than his reputation. Everybody banked on the man himself.

Like a lot of things in this world, it was patience that finally did it for us.

Figuring there’d be another day . . . as there generally is.

Thinking about that, I went for coffee. It was hot, blacker than sin, and strong enough to float a horseshoe. It was cowboy’s coffee.

Besides there was the land. A big grand country with every glance lost in the distance. There was a special feeling on the wind when it blew across those miles of grass, a wind so cool, so deep down inside you that every breath of it was like a drink of cool water.

It runs in the blood of a man that should care for womenfolk. It is a need in him, deep as motherhood to a women. And it’s a thing folks are likely to forget. A man with nobody to care for is as lonesome as a lost hound dog, and as useless. If he’s to feel any of the purpose to himself, he’s got to feel needed, feel he stands between somebody and and any trouble.

You’ll have to burn the stump and sift the ashes fore you find me again,

Never walk in to a man when he’s set for punchin. Better to go around him and work him out of balance.

Can’t always tell a coyote by his holler.

We’d have to be lucky. We’d have to be hung with four leaf clovers.

We rode back to plant roots in the land , and with luck, to leave sons to carry on a more peaceful life, in what we hoped would be a more peaceful world. But whatever was to come, our sons would be Sacketts, and they would do what had to be done whenever the call would come.



But there was that inside me , whatever it was that made me a man, that was a whole long way from being whipped. The wolves could smell blood, they could smell a festering wound, but could they smell the heart of a man, the nerve that was in him?

When trouble showed, it was our way to take to the hills again. At least until we got our second wind.

The wind was cold off the mountains and I was a naked man with enemies behind me and nothing before me but hope.

Blessed my mountain boyhood where a body had to scrape and scramble to live

Fresh country not all cluttered up with folks

One thing we learned, to make a start and keep plugging. When I had fights at school, the little while I went, I just bowed my neck and kept swinging until something hit the dirt. Sometimes it was me, but I always got up.

Fire down to a few tiny coals, and with effort I nursed it back into flame. Something padded in the brush out there so I built my fire higher and kept my club and my stone knoife closer. How many men had crouched beside such fires in the years gone by?

Snap, snarl, snort, bark, bellow

It is a man’s brain that has removed him from the animals and it is man’s brain that will let him survive, if he takes time to think.

That’s a man I’ve got to see, He’d wear a Sherman button to a Georgia picnic.

Yet, I was facing the same thing that faced every hunting and food-gathering people. Soon a man has eaten all that’s available close by and the game grows wary. Until man learned to plant crops and herd animals for food they had of necessity to move on . . and on.

I huddled by my capful of fire and wished for a cabin, a girl and ameal waiting, for I was a lonesome man with little enough before me and nothing behind me but troubles.

What is the old saying the Irish have? The beginning of a ship is a board; of a kiln a stone and the beginning of health is sleep.

If I know him he’s a comin, and somehow or other he’ll keep himself alive. Up to us to find him, no matter how long. No sackett ever left another in a bind. Leastways, not from my part of the country.

His chances of survival depended upon himself and his own energies. They had grown up together, struggling together, and no man could know another so well as Galloway knew Flagan. He knew what Flagan must do to survive because he knew what he would do. And there was no easy way. Flagan would be struggling for every mouthful of food, thinking, conniving, planning.

I like to ride lonesome countrry. It’s built in me.

How much can a man endure? How long could a man continue? These things I asked myself, for I am a questionning man, yet even as I asked the answers were there before me. If he be a man indeed, he must always go on, but he must always endure. Death is an end to torture, to struggle, to suffering, but it is also an end to warmth, light, the beauty of a running horse, the smell of a damp leaves, of gunpowder, the walk of a woman when she knows someone watches. . . . these things too are gone.

I have lived long enough to know that nothing lasts forever, and men torture themselves who believe that it will. The one law that does not change is that everything changes, and the hardship I was bearing today was only a breath away from the pleasures I would have tomorrow, and those pleasures would be all the richer because of the memories of this I was enduring.

A man shares his day with hunger, thirst and cold, with the good times and the bad and the first part of being a man is to understand that. Leastways I had two hands, two feet and two eyes, and there was some that lacked these things.

You get a hankering for nice things if there’s much to you. I seems to me that first a man tries to get shelter and food to eat, but as soon as he has that he tries to find beauty, something to warm the heart and the mind, something to ease the thoughts and make pleasurable the setting in the evening. About all we had was the open fire. It was the thing we set store by.

We all take to shooting like to girling or eating, comes natural

Running water, lakes, aspen, pines, spruce and so much fish and game the stuff fairly jumped at a man . . there was hay in the meadows, flowers on the slopes and timber for the cutting. It was our kind of country here we Sacketts would stay.

I decided long ago that I run in single harness. I like the high lonesome country, so maybe it fits.

Gals like the high-spirited kind I’ve noticed. If they can break them to harness they aren’t at all what the gal wanted in the beginning and if she can’t break them they usually break her. But that’s the way of it.

He was a bit feisty there at first, but as soon as he found that I intended to stay in the saddle and take no nonsense headed down the trail happily enough. He just wanted to settle as to who was boss.

Folks like to stop at rivers, but the smart ones always cross the river first and then camp. The river might rise up during the night and hold them for days.

In the good months, I fish and hunt and in the winter I sit by the fire and read or talk. I am a talkative man, Sackett. I like people, and enjoy their company. Nothing like a warm fire when the weather’s turning bad to get folks to set up and talk.

It is a risk meeting folks. You never know which one is a danger for you. It’s like coming to a crossroads where you pull up and look both ways and your whole life may change if you take the wrong direction.

I think a man takes trouble with him

Felt lucky to my hand.

I’ve seen some men who were mighty bright in their books who couldn’t tell daylight from dark when it comes to judging men or the condition of things.

I like my fellow man, but also realize he carried a good measure old Nick in him and he can find a good excuse for most any kind of wrongdoing or mischief.

A man who starts imagining that others think good because he does is simply out of his mind. I’ve helped bury a few who did think that way. . . nice peaceful men who wanted no trouble and made none. When feeding time comes around there’s nothing a hawk likes better than a nice fat, peaceful dove.

Galloway and me, we weren’t like the usual cowhands who would rather take a whipping than any work that can’t done on a horse. We were both planting boys from the hills who could plow as straight a furrow as the next man, if need be, so we spaded up a corner of ground, worked over the sod and we went down to the store to buy some seed. We planted potatoes, carrots, pumpkins and corn to start. We had no idea how they’d grow but if they did, they’d be a help. Starting a home in a new land is never a bed of roses, but then we didn’t come looking for it to be easy.

Work pleasures me no more than the next man, but if a body is to have anything there’s no other way, although, we found excuses to get up in the saddle and go perambulating around the country.

We don’t have so many words as you, so we have to make those we have stand up and do tricks. I never figured language was any stone cold thing anyway. Its to provide meaning, to tell other folks what you have in mind, and there’s no reason why if a man is short a word, he can’t invent one.

Learning isn’t only schooling It’s lookin, listening and making do. If man doesn’t have much or if he’s in wild country, he’d better get himself to contemplate and contrive. Pa always taught us to sit down and contemplate, to take our problem and wrassel with it until there’s an answer. An when we contrive. Back in the hills we couldn’t buy much and we didn’t have any fancy fixin’s so we contrived. We put together what we could find and added it to something else.

Many a campfire dies down with talk that doesn’t count up to much in the sunlight.

Right now we had to pin down the things that were sure or that we were trying to make sure

Talk never scratched any hides

Long way short of being the man I’d been

Galloway was making soup. He got that from Ma. Any time anybody had anything happen, birth, death, fight or wedding, ma made soup.

We’re brothers . . in thinking as well as in blood

You are warrior. You are strong against pain and you know the Indian way.

Nick will buy anything that is contrary to the prejudices of people around him. He’s just like that. He’s just naturally contrary, and he don’t give a damn whether school keeps or not.

Ma’am, for a woman with a harpy’s tongue you surely can put vittles together.

She was like every other girl that age who likes to flirt and think about love and such

Dreamable girls

Nothing like a long cattle drive to make a good Christian out of a man . . . for at least as long as the drive lasts.

There’s no stopping a man who knows he’s in the right and keeps a-comin’

One of them was the Bible. He knew all the stories, but didn’t seem to have picked up much of the morals.

It was a rough hard wonderful life and it took men with bark on to live it. We didn’t ask anything of anybody and as long as a man did his work nobody cared what else he was or did

He’s like the mule who butted his head into a tree, and somebody asked if he couldn’t go around and he answered sure, but he just didn’t give a damn.

I want to come out of a morning and look up at those hills and know nothing can be very wrong as long as there’s something so beautiful. My pa used to say that when corruption is visited upon the cities of men, the mountains and the deserts await him. The cities are for money but the high-up hills are purely for the soul.

I figure to live out my life right here where I can hear the water run and see the aspen leaves turn gold in the autumn and come green in the spring. I want to wake up in the morning and see my own cattle feeding on the meadow and hear the horses stomping in their stalls. I never had much chance for the book ‘learnin, but this here is a kind of book anybody can read who’ll stand still long enough. This is the La Plata country and I’ve come home.




General Grant: How does it happen that a boy form Tennessee is fighting for the Union?

Tell: Well, sir, my country is a thing to love, and I set store by being an American. My grandpa was one of Dearborn’s riflemen at the 2nd battle of Saratoga and Grandpa sailed the seas with Decatur and Bainbridge. Grandpa was one of the boatmen who went under the guns of the Barbary pirates to burn the Philadelphia. My folks built blood into the foundation of this country and I don’t aim to see them torn down for no reason whatsoever.

Bad man—a bad man to have trouble with.

Seemed a good time to become a wandering man

See ma and hear the creak of that old rocker that spelled home to me. When we boys were growing up that creak was the sound of comfort to us. It meant home, and it meant ma, and it meant understanding . . .and time to time it meant a belt with a strap.

Mountain man tries to live with the country instead of against it.

We Sacketts believed young folks should respect their elders, but their elders had to deserve respect.

Came out like an eel out of greasy fingers.

Riding the high trails

Fair lingering

I’d sooner buy his clothes than feed him

Clint Stockton –San Juans and Uncompagre outlaw(?)

The man who had something to sell would be better of than a man who searched for gold.

Neither of us had much trust in the peaceful qualities of our fellow man. Seems to me most of the folks doing all the talk about peace and giving the other fellow the benefit of the doubt were folks sitting back to home in cushy chairs with plenty of grub around and the police near to protect them. Back there, men would set down safe of an evening and write about how cruel the poor indian was being treated out west. They never came upon the body of a friend who had been staked out on an anthill or had a fire built on his stomach, nor had they stood a charge of Indians.

I found Indians to be people to respect. Their ways weren’t our ways, and a lot of virtues they were given credit for by white men were only ideas in a white man’s head, and no Indian would have considered them virtues. Mercy rarely had any part in the make-up of an Indian.

Folks talk about human nature, but what they mean is not human nature, but the way they are brought up. It seems to me that folks who are brought up with Christian ways of thought don’t beleive in the taking of human life, but the indian had no such conception. If you were a stranger, you were an enemy. If you gave them gifts it was usually because you were afraid of them . . or that’s how they thought.

Indians were fighting men. Fighting was their greatest sport and occupation. Our people look up to athletes or one kind or another, but an Indian saved all his respect for fighting men. An indian would count the scalp of a woman or a child as well as a man’s. This was wrong to our way of thinking but his way of thinking was altogether different. The indian, before the white man took up the west, was physically cleaner than the whiteman. He bathed often and it wasn’t until liquor and poverty caught up with him that he lost the old ways. But the Indian warrior would have been ashamed of all the milk sop talk about the poor Indian. He was strong, proud and he was able to handle his own problems.

Drifted here with the wrong crowd before I measured them up for caliber.

I’d been worrying that book like a dog worries a bone, trying to get at the marrow of it, but it was a thing that took time.

Mostly I’d say a good man is one you can rely on, one who does his job and stands by what he believes.

Respecting the rights of others, giving folks the benefit of the doubt, sharing the work of the community.

You’ll die in a corner just snapping and grabbing and cutting around you. You’ll die with your teeth in somebody if I know you right.

Didn’t cut much ice, reading about ethics and all. Inside I could feel myself getting mean.

Learned how to make out on mighty little, learned how to rustle

Mostly I fussed over them to keep their spirits up. They were smart enough to know we were in trouble, but being cared for made them confident all was well.

Women are practical. They get right down to bedrock about things, and no woman is going to waste much time remembering a man who was fool enough to kill himself. Thing to do is to live for love, not die for it.

I believe in justice. I believe in being tolerating of other folks, but I pack a pistol, ma’am, and will use it when needed.

No man can abide much by what a woman thinks at a time like this. He does what it’s his nature to do.

Old man of the woods, right from Bitter creek, tough and mean and not all talk. Tough as winter on the caprock of West Texas.


Watching as a cougar watches a rattler.

Seemed like those boys would run out of ambition, but they must be mighty shy of entertainment in that gyprock country, because they kept coming.

A man’s pride was defended by a gun. I aint saying it was right, only that was the way it was.

Could stand the stirrups and look straight away for three days. It was that level.

The wind smelled good and the sun was warm and it was a great time to be alive.

I am not a man who cares to run, unless it is toward something

Sun up was a rare fine thing

She was . . . shaped like music.

One of those women who like nothing better than to see a man set up to a table and put away food.

I am a fast travelin’ man in Injun country. When a man traveled in Indian Country he sort of sifted through gentle-like and taking up no more room than need be. He kept out of sight, and slept without a fire at night unless he could hide it well. And on top of that, he prayed, if he was a praying man, and the deeper you got into indian country, more of a praying man you got to be. You just couldn’t afford to miss any bets.

‘You’re a good man." A man has to avoid that sort of thing. First thing a man knows he’s trying to live up to it and then what kind of an outlaw is he?

From now on until I got the lay of the land, they could do the talking.

$50 was a lot of money, but a whole hide counted pretty high with me. Besides I had a few dollars when I rode in and I’d have most of it riding out.

Now I’m no hand with womenfolks. I’m a rough hardheaded man, doing most any kind of work or getting into any kind of fighting shindig. Womenfolks, especially the young, pretty kind put a loop in my tongue to where it can scarce wiggle. And this Penelope, she was fresh and lovely and kind of sparkly when she laughed. Like I’ve said, she was a tall girl and well made. She was put together so that when she moved it had a way of makin’ a man might restless.

Folks out here are a rough lot, ma’am. There’s the good and the bad, and there’s many a man who has come west to get away from something, some trouble he’s had. You’ll find men from the oldest families an with the best education working right alongside a cowhand who cant read nor write. The trouble is, too many folks come out just to get rich and then get out. They don’t care what they leave behind as long as they can take riches with them.

It was in my mind to try and foresee what might happen and so be prepared for it. There’s no way I know of a body can foresee the future, but sometimes he can read it pretty well if he knows the way people think.

One thing I’d learned a long time back: you just cant waste time talking. If there’s talking to do, do it afterwards.

I would never have very much in the way of money, but I’d have the memories of this land when it was fresh and open, the memories of one of the grandest pieces of country a man could ever see.

With western folks a body knew where he stood. I mean things were mostly out in the wide open, for the very good reason that there was no place to hide anything. People were scarce, the towns were small and whatever a man did, it had to be pretty well known.

Things were beginning to change, tho, because with the railroads a new kind of folks were coming west. The cheat and weaklings that hard times weeded out in earlier years could now ride west on cushions.

What I wanted now was some sitting around time and eating three square meals a day. I wanted coffee I didn’t make myself and some restaurant cooked grub.

Splitting the breeze for Denver.


Mojave Crossing

She was medium tall, with a way about her that set a man to thinking thoughts best kept to himself.

There’s more snares in a woman’s long lashes than in all the creek bottoms of Tennessee

. . .but if a body can buy cheap and sell high he just naturally ain’t liable to starve.


I was pretty fair at getting from here to yonder, so I just bowed my neck and plunged in, figuring wherever a body could go a Smoky Mountain Sackett could go.

There’s a-plenty of just people in the world, but the flesh is weak and man is prone to sin . . .especially if a woman is involved.

There is something about the presence of gold that is favorable to the breathing of beautiful women.

Storing up pleasure for myself in thinking of a time when I could set up to a table and eat a hot meal I hadn’t fixed for myself.

Seems to me a man has trouble enough in this world without borrowing more with careless words.

It never does any good for a man to cuss himself unless maybe it helps to impress on his mind what a fool he’s been . . .

In these times there were white men with bloodier hands than any Indian.

Ricochets have a nasty whine

They started the ball and I was going to call a few tunes my own self.

The desert night was cool and . . . it felt likely to my spirit.

There are men who prefer to keep trouble from a woman, but it seems to me that is neither reasonable nor wise. I’ve always respected the thinking of women, and also their ability to face up to trouble when it comes, and it shouldn’t be allowed to come on them unexpected. Many a man has sheltered his wife from his troubles, until suddenly he dies and she awakens to poverty as well as grief. So I gave it to her . . . hard and cold.

Taught us to make up our minds, and once made up, to act on what we decided, and not waste time quibbling about. So I taken up my left foot and stepped out toward the west and followed it with my right, and I was on my way.

A fierce and awful people.

Anger is a killing thing: it kills the man who angers, for each rage leaves him less than had been before – it takes something from him.

I just kept picking my feet up and putting them down

There was a feeling of lazy good will about it, from the smell of the barnyard and the jasmine around the house to the shade of the huge old trees.

Cups of the blackest coffee this side of Hell itself.

Not given to cities, nor the crowded walks of men. I like the winds upon my face, the stirring of miles of grass bending before the wind, the cloud shadows upon the plain, the lure and lift of far hills.

You got to admit she keeps what she’s got so you know it’s there.

I’m a lonesome man riding a lonesome country

Well, sir, I looked into those big black eyes and saw those moist lips, and thinks I, if there’s a trap, they surely picked the right bait.

It stirred memories that brought with them a smell of gunsmoke and wet leather.

Young men do not like to believe that. Each has within him that little something that says: Others may die, but not me. I shall live. Despite all those who die around him, this is what he believes. But I did not believe it, and I had never believed it from the first moment I saw a good man die when the evil live. I could believe in no special providence for any man.

It was simply because it was in me to go. I had never learned how to hang back from what it was up to me to do.

All I know is to go bulling in and do whatever comes natural.

So we talked the afternoon away, and finally I knew I had to let go of the bull. What I mean is, I had the bull by the tail and I was safe as long as I hung on; but I had to let go sometime and it was better to pick my own time than to wait until he got impatient.

Any of you boys, want to buy into this game? The pot is open and bullets are chips."

Death was riding at my heels these days, and I didn’t want to charm it to me by thinking of it.

You boys just ride out of here and count it time well spent.


Right off they saw I could do my work and they let me do it.

Born to trouble and it is best to meet it when it comes and not lose sleep until it does.

And sometimes I’d dream great dreams of a girl I’d know someday.

Suddenly something happened to me, and happened to Orrin too. The world had burst wide open and where our narrow valleys had been, our hog-backed ridges, our huddled towns and villages, there was now a world without end or limit. Where our world had been one of a few mountain walls, it was now as wide as the earth itself, and wider, for where the land ended there was sky, and no end at all to that.

Hard old gray eyes of his had looked on a sight of strange things.

For if ever was a man-catching look in a woman’s eyes, it was in hers, then.

She was looking at him like he was money from home.

Talk a squirrel right out of a walnut tree.

Most folks don’t leave home unless they figure to gain by it.

There was always something stand-offish about me. I liked folks, but I liked the wild animals, the lonely trails and the mountains better.

You’re different. Don’t you ever regret it. Folks won’t cotton to you much, but the friends you make will be good friends and they’ll stand by you.

The moments seemed to plod, every detail stood out in sharp focus, clear and strong. Every sense, every emotion was caught and held, concentrated on that man coming up the street.

He would know what was to be done, for nobody needed to tell him how to play his cards in a situation like this . . .

Me, I wasn’t thinking, I was just me, and I knew some things were inevitable.

Somewhere I had begun to learn things about myself.

. . .but me I’m more than average contrary.

You can die. You can be snuffed out like you never existed at all and a few minutes after you’re buried nobody will care except maybe your wife or your mother. You stick you finger in the water and you pull it out, and that’s how much of a hole you leave when you’re gone.

Cold and dead in the dust down there with only the memory a gnawing rat of pain in your belly.

Was I you I’d straddle my bronc and light a shuck out of here. You got lots of country to choose from.

You are a brave man . . . and what is more important, a wise one.

We had an ache inside us for new country, and a longing to see the mountatins show up on the horizon

They hadn’t the same upbringing a white man has. There was none of this talk of mercy, kindness and suchlike which we get from the time we’re youngsters. We get it even though most folks don’t foller the teachin’. An Injun is loyal to nobody but his own tribe . . .and any stranger is apt to be an enemy.

You fight an injun and whup him, after that maybe you can trade with him. He’ll deal with a fightin man, but a man who can’t protect himself, well, most Injuns have no respect for him, so they just kill him and forget him

Set there watchin the outer darkness and listening.

Go easy, I told myself, this is dangerous ground.

The way he looked down that thin New England nose of his didn’t promise any good for those who didn’t agree with him.

I’d known few girls. Mostly I fought shy of them, not figuring to put my neck in an any loops I couldn’t pull out of.

He was always ready to ride far afield.

There’s no accounting for the notions men get, and it seems to me the most serious trouble between men comes not so much from money, horses, or women, but from notions. A man takes a dislike to another man for no reason at all but they rub each other wrong, and then something, a horse, or a woman or a drink sets it off and the go to shooting or cutting or walloping with sticks.

A man should trust his senses and they’ll grow sharper from use.

In the distance clouds piled up enourmous towers and battlements, building dream castles in the sky. Along the prairie, heat waves danced and rippled in the sun, and far off a mirage lake showed the blue of its dream water to taunt our eyes.

The country makes a man think of it. It’s a big country with lots of room to spread out . . . it gives a man big ideas.

Country like that, you just keep moving, putting one foot ahead of the other like a man in a trance.

There was iron and rawhide in that man.

You get a man backing up it’s hard for hiom to stop and start coming at you.

You’re just as big or small as your vision is, and if you’ve a mind to work and make something of yourself, you can do it.


Mercy is a taught thing, nobody comes by it naturally.

Of a night we yarned around the fire or belly-ached about somebody’s cooking.

A man can learn a lot if he listens, and if I didn’t learn anything else I was learning how much I didn’t know. It made me hungry to know it all, and mad because I was getting so late a start.

This was siesta time. A dog opened one eye and wagged a tail to show that if I didn’t bother him he’d be pleased. Me, I wasn’t of a mind to bother anybody.

I tried to appear worldy and mighty smug about it all. Fact is I felt pretty foolish.

Only thing I could do was stand my ground and wear it out or high-tail it for the brush.

This one had a shape to take a man’s eye. Every time she’d pass me on the streets she’d give a little more swish to her skirts and I figured we could get acquainted if I just knew how to go about it.

Badger tough and coon smart.

You wonder if he was gonna offer prayer or sell you a gold brick.

Looked like he’d swallowed something that wasn’t good for him.

It bred the kind of man with guts and toughness no eastern man could use.

Most men never discover what they’ve got inside. A man has to face up to trouble before he knows. The kind of conniving a man could get away with back east wouldn’t go out here. You can hide that kind of behavior in a crowd. . . .one of those who mistook liberty for license. Worst of all, he had an exaggerated idea of how big a man he was . . . trouble was, he wasn’t a big man, just a mean one.

Buck like a sidewinder on a red-ant hill.

First time I straddled Sate, we had us a mite of a go-around. When I came off him I was shook up inside and had a nosebleed, but I got off when I was good and ready and from that time on Sate knew who was wearing the pants.

I said a prayer to the guardian angel of fools

There was nothing around there I wanted and what I wanted most was distance from where I was.

And in a fighting matter no man should depend. He should do what has to be done himself.

Eastern folks might call this adventure, but it is one thing to read of adventure sitting in an easy chair with a cool drink at hand, and quite another thing to be belly down in the hot dust.

Yarning it in the shade.

If you think that’s entertainment, then try it on for size.

Hot, rough, cussing work.

Should be able to throw it and hog-tie it.

It was the first time I‘d had anything to lose.

The way I saw it unless a man knows where he’s going he isn’t going anywhere at all.

Winning friends

Politics aint much different than one of these icebergs you hear tell of. Most of what goes on is beneath the surface. It doesn’t make any difference how good a man is, or how good his ideas are, or even how honest he is unless he can put across a program and that’s politics. Statesmanship is about ten percent good ideas and motives and ninety percent getting backing for your program.

Everyman to his job and mine’s politics. First thing is to listen. Learn the issues, the personalities, where the votes are, where the hard feelings are.

Get down and be friends with everybody . . .just plain likes people and they feel it . . like you like Mexicans and they know it.

Ma wasn’t used to much, but she liked flowers around her and trees. She like meadow grass blowing in the wind and the soft fall of rain on her own roof. A good fire, her rocker, a home of her own , and he r boys not too far away.

A saloon, some such place where folks could get together.

Folks want laws enforced against killing but without killing.

Poison mean in a difficulty.

Lost and lonely feeling to see trouble building between us, but pride and whiskey are a bad combination.

Thougtful son and a good man.

Talked to folks or listened to them tell about their troubles. Orrin was a good listener who was always ready to give a man an hand

When Orrin takes a-hold, he takes a-hold.

Quick, quiet and wasted no time talking

All the land I used I wanted title to, and I figured it would be best to run only a few cattle, keep from overgrazing the grass, and sell fat cattle. We had already found out we could get premium prices for cattle that were in good shape.

It was a time for young men.

The thing to do is to locate some color and then choose a likely spot like this bench and sink a shaft down to bedrock, panning out that gravel that comes off the bedrock, working down to get all the cracks and to peel off any loose slabs and work the gravel gathered beneath them. Gold is heavy, and over the years it works deeper and deeper through loose earth or gravel until it reaches bedrock and can go no further.

There’s no court here but a six-shooter and I’m presiding.

Strength never made right, and it is an indecency when it is allowed to breed corruption.

Because people have a greater tolerance for evil than for violence.

They came from the world around, the younger sons of fine families, the ne’er-do-wells, the soldiers of fortune, the drifters, the always-broke, the promoters, the con men, the thieves.

Jumping off place to nowhere.

If this here is hell, they sure picked the right people for it.

You’ll hold soup.

Were damned fools, but a man got into a way of living and there was no way to go but on.

Command votes

He was an office man, built for a swivel chair and a roll-top desk.,

Womenfolks sometimes need handling. You let the keep the bit in their teeth and they’ll make you miserable and themselves too. You pet ‘em a little and keep a firm hand on the bridle and you’ll have no trouble.

I’d say your feet aren’t tied to the stirrups. I’d say there isn’t a thing to keep you in the saddle but your mind to stay there, and nobody’s going to give you a medal for staying in the saddle when you can’t make a decent ride of it.

He’s a good man, a better man than he knows, and this will prove it to him and to you. Give him authority and give him responsibility. You can trust him to use good judgement.

A man didn’t think too much of consequences but crossed each bridge as he came to it.

Inside me there was a patience growing.

Who could look over big country longer

A man wants peace in the country he has to go straight to the heart of things.

Time to time I’ve come across a few men like Pritts . . . once set on a trail they can’t see anything but that and the more they’re balked, the stiffer they get. As he gets older he gets meaner and . . . he wants what he’s after and he knows time is short.

Nobody can buck liquor and a grudge.

Sometimes the most important things in a man’s life are the ones he talks about the least.

It was good to walk beside him, brothers in feeling as well as in blood.

Trail dust is thicker than blood.

Like an old buffalo bull who’s left the herd.

Gone killer . . .it affects some men like rabies, and they keep on killing until smebody kills them.

Nosing after news like a smart old coon dog looking up trails in the dust or the berry patches.

In love with what you thought she was. A man often creates an image of a girl in his mind but when it comes right down to it that’s the only place the girl exists.

(Standing against ) The dark demons of drought and stones