“For a hundred years my family had told stories of Sacketts
who came running to help Sacketts, often men they had never known.
It was the way of our kind, the way of the hills in which we were bred.”
-William Tell Sackett.
This book has the largest gathering of Sacketts ever seen. Unfortunately, it is because one of their own is in trouble. In the beginning of the book, Tell is out scouting the land when he is shot. He falls down a cliff into a river and is able to escape the men hunting him. Then he returns to his camp to find his wife Ange, their wagon and all of their gear missing. He knows he is in the right place, but there is no sign that the wagon was ever there. This leads him to the conclusion that an evil act is being covered by the guilty conscience of a man. Sadly, he is right.
Then, he searches for his wife, for the truth, and for the man responsible. When he finds his wife, the truth is revealed, and the man responsible receives the full weight of his anger. There are obstacles, however, as 40 hired guns are brought in to kill Tell thereby silencing him. But, these men have never been in a fight with a Sackett and very badly underestimate him. As all the Sacketts are coming into town, one of them comments, “‘He couldn’t be so ornery. Not even a Sackett could be so down-right ornery. He don’t dare let us be late.’ ‘Ornery?’ ‘He couldn’t be so ornery as to kill all forty of ’em before we get there.'” Only a group of Sacketts would worry about one guy finishing off 40 others before they could get in there to help. As Tell said, “None of us Sacketts were ever much on missing out on a fight. It was just in us to step in and let fly.”
This book has such a sad story. The beginning just breaks your heart, but the fighting and the “all-in relational aspect” that is the trademark of the Sackett line makes you forget about the sadness and really enjoy the story. As I look back over the book, I am realizing that it is so sad, and I am trying to figure out why I thought the book was so good and fun. Before you judge me for so thoroughly enjoying a book with such a tragic beginning, read it for yourself, you’ll see what I mean. My best explanation is this. That in the end what you’re left with is what we are all really longing for. A large family that loves you so much they will drop everything, risk what is most important, and run, not walk to join you when you most need them. Someone who loves you so much that they will search every dangerous path to find you. Who will then stand strong against your enemies until they are defeated. Unconditional love. These are the things you will remember from this book. And I can tell you that you will enjoy it. A lot.
“Every man is born with death in him,” I said. “It’s only a matter of time.” -William Tell Sackett
Mojave Crossing is another William Tell Sackett book. This book finds him escorting a beautiful woman across the Mojave desert. She is running from some sort of trouble, and he can never quite shake his first image of her when he describes her as a black eyed witch. Not that he’s being especially unkind, he just sees some sort of ulterior motive in a beautiful woman who sets her sights on a “big raw-boned mountain boy, rougher than a cob and standing six feet three inches in my socks, with hands and shoulders fit to wrassle mustang broncs or ornery steers, but no hand with womenfolks.” As with all Sackett books, this one is filled with a host of colorful characters. Good guys and bad guys alike fill the pages nicely.
At one point, Tell stumbles into an outlaw camp. He is invited to come in and have a bite. One of the guys around the fire is teasing him, and he replies, “You just stack your duds and grease your skids and I’ll whup you down to a frazzle… After I’ve been fed.” I love a character who is sure enough of himself to jump into a teasing conversation in any crowd. Tell is an honest man who has the look of one who can, and will take care of business. As such, he is accepted into almost any crowd without having to change his character. Only those who directly cross him don’t enjoy being with him.
When he does get mad, you don’t want to be the one to have caused it. He says, “Until then I hadn’t been mad, for we Sacketts, man and boy, are slow to anger, but when we come to it we are a fierce and awful people. Another thing Pa had taught us boys was that anger is a killing thing: it kills the man who angers, for each rage leaves him less than he had been before- it takes something from him.” Oh that Pa was a wise man. I bet when you heard that anger is a killing thing you immediately thought of the person who had angered Tell, possibly with pity. But, he is talking about himself. He is warning us of the dangers to our own hearts if we walk around getting angry all the time.
There is enough mystery in this book that I don’t want to tell you too much about the actual story because it will possibly reveal things that are more fun discovered as L’Amour intended you to learn them. Just know that I really liked this book and I think you will too.
We meet Nolan Sackett here and I’m hoping he has his own book somewhere down the line. He could be fun.
Sackett tells the story of William Tell Sackett. He showed up just briefly in The Daybreakers and I was excited to meet him because I had heard that he was some people’s favorite Sackett. But, we didn’t really get to know him until this book. And let me tell you, it was worth the wait.
On his way home one day, Tell comes upon a string of old markers that lead him to a gold mine. An actual gold mine, not the figure of speech we use today. It is hidden in a hard to reach valley and requires skill and daring to bring the gold out. Lucky for him, he was born a Sackett and skill and daring are something they have plenty of. While he’s in the valley, he gets a deer and hangs it in a tree overnight. When he comes out in the morning, most of the meat is gone. His response is this, “Hanging the meat up again, I went out and killed and dressed another buck. I hung it in a tree also, and rode away. I wanted nobody going hungry where I could lend a hand. Whoever or whatever it was would have meat as long as that buck lasted.” If only we as people could actually live this way. Instead of getting angry when we are wronged, understanding that the person on the other end may actually need more help that he is able to ask for. And then, giving that help where we are able. In this case, the person needing help ended up to be a beautiful young woman, who, in the end agrees to marry Tell.
I always enjoy L’Amour’s depictions of parents. They come to us through the lens of childhood memories, and they are loving and respectful. Here Tell speaks of his father, “At hunting time Pa doled out the ca’tridges and of an evening he would check our game, and for every ca’tridge he’d given us we had to show game or a mighty good reason for missing. Pa wasn’t one to waste a bullet.” In this one memory, we see a father who teaches responsibility as well as independence. He teaches boys to respect the resources around them as well as how to provide for themselves and their families.
And of his mother, “There’s folks who don’t hold with womenfolks smoking, but I was honing to see Ma, to smell her old pipe-a-going, and to hear the creak of that old rocker that always 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.” What a better world we would be in if more of us could recall a spanking in the same thought as understanding and home and Ma. I love this passage that says that the Sacketts understand discipline as a part of love. No wonder they grow into such great men.
In and among the great thoughts and fancy shooting was the humor that I’ve come to enjoy so much in L’Amour’s books. This was a great book and I had such a fun time reading it.