Monthly Archives: September 2012

Galloway by Louis L’Amour

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“There’s a saying that when guns are outlawed, only the outlaws will have guns.” -Flagan Sackett

It’s the kind of statement we’ve heard in our lifetimes too, isn’t it? Something I have learned from reading the Sackett  books is that the hearts of men don’t change. As Solomon once said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” No matter what the customs, or laws of the land are, there will always be men who stand firmly on the side of right, and there will be men whose thoughts and actions are motivated by evil. I have loved that L’Amour recognizes that and has touched on it in each of his books. As he recalls the relationships between groups of people, he comments on the fact that neither side is blameless in their treatment of each other. That the actions of men committed to honesty and fairness are undermined by those motivated by personal gain or malice.

This book has Flagan Sackett escaping from a group of Jicarilla Apaches. He is captured by them and tied up, awaiting torture. But, while he lays there looking for escape, he doesn’t hate the men holding him. He simply understands his situation as part of their culture. The Apaches had such respect for strength and courage that they would test the men they captured through torture to see how strong they really were. I know that I have not explained well the mind of an Apache warrior, but I also know that I do not have the capacity to explain it to you. I suggest that you read L’Amour’s books, and find a love for a people group that have historically been feared, resented, and guiltily pushed to the backs of our minds.

So, back to Flagan. He manages to escape the Apaches, but is unfortunately naked when he does so. To us, this sounds embarrassing. To a man alone in the mountains, naked is dangerous. It means no warmth, no protection for feet from sharp rocks, and no weapons for protection or for killing some much needed meat. But, as Galloway said, “We Sacketts don’t die easy, and Flagan is a tough man. He’s been up the creek and over the mountain. He’s fit Comanches and Arapahoes on the buffalo plains, and about ever’ kind of man or animal. He’s a tough man.” He makes it back to civilization, while on the way making enemies with Curly Dunn, a man whose actions can not be classified as pure.

“You’d better be careful. The Dunns will think you’re crowding them.’

‘It’s open range and there’s enough for all.’

‘That isn’t what they think, Mr. Sackett. There are six of the Dunn boys, and there’s their pa, and they’ve a dozen or more men who ride for them.’

‘Well, there’s two of us Sacketts. That should make it work out about right. Of course, if need be, there’s a lot of us scattered around and we set store by our kinfolk.”

I love when a group of Sacketts come together. And this book has a great group. Logan and Parmalee join Flagan and Galloway in the fun and the fighting. Even with all the commonalities that the Sacketts share, there are so many ways in which they differ. Throw in a couple friends and you’ve got a crowd of characters matched by none, with conversations that can’t be beat. “We don’t have so many words as you,’ I told him, ‘so we have to make those we have stand up and do tricks. I never figured language was any stone-cold thing anyway. It’s 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. When we speak of beans that have been shelled out of the pod we call ’em shuck-beans, because they’ve been shucked. It’s simple, if you look at it.’

‘Learning,’ Galloway added, ‘isn’t only schoolin’. It’s looking, listening and making-do. If a 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 set down and contemplate, take our problem and wrassel with it until there’s an answer.’ Pa taught them well, and that’s just what they did. And you are going to enjoy reading all about it. Well, if you’re anything like me, you will.

Mustang Man by Louis L’Amour

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“When a man travelled 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 the more of a praying man you got to be.” -Nolan Sackett

You’ve probably guessed that Nolan Sackett is the Mustang Man. Near the beginning of the book, he encounters a group heading cross country. He’s having some dinner and the owner of the establishment he’s in suggests that he should escort them. His initial reaction is strongly in the negative, but his mind is changed in the end, mostly because one of them is a woman and, “She was beautiful…taller than most girls… and shaped like music.” When Pio, the owner of the cantina, finally convinces him to take them through the rough country beyond, we hear this: “‘Bueno!’ Pio smiled at me. ‘I knew this was what you would do. I tell them so. I tell them just to wait, that you’re a good man.’

Me? It was the first time in a long while anybody had said that about Nolan Sackett. Oh, they say, ‘He’s a good man with a gun,’ or ‘He’s a fair hand with a rope.’ or ‘He can ride anything wears hair,’ but nobody just out and said I was a good man.

A man had to avoid that sort of thing. First thing a man knows he’s tryin’ to live up to it. And then what kind of an outlaw is he?”

Oh I loved Nolan Sackett. As you might expect from a Sackett, he is not as good an outlaw as can be. He’s more of a wrong place at the wrong time kind of guy. He faced down the wrong man, a man who had friends to back him up, and was unfortunately a faster, better shot. So, when the chips are down, and the lady’s in trouble, he can do nothing but come to her rescue again and again.

The Lonely Men by Louis L’Amour

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“We were hard and lonely men who rode a hard and lonely way. We had known nothing of each other until this ride began in Yuma, and even now we knew scarcely more. But we had sweated and thirsted together, we had hungered and fought, and eaten trail dust together; so now we rode as brothers ride.” -Tell Sackett

The Lonely Men from this book are William Tell Sackett, Tampico Rocca, John J Battles, and Spanish Murphy. The book starts with these men under attack by Apaches. It’s the kind of thing that brings men together. That makes them realize they will fight together as long as one of them needs the others. Even if one of them is sent on a wild goose chase by his estranged sister in law.

Years ago, when Orrin Sackett realized the truth about his wife Laura, he left her with her father, the only man she was capable of loving. After her father dies, her hatred for Orrin turns to a hatred of all by the name of Sackett, so when she meets up with Tell, she decides that if she can’t see Orrin dead, then any old Sackett will do. Tell, on the other hand, hears the name Sackett and runs to her rescue. She sends him off in search of a son that doesn’t exist, telling him that her boy was kidnapped by Apaches and taken south of the border. So these men head straight into Apache territory. Of course there are no Sackett boys down there, but there are 4 other children who were kidnapped and taken to be raised as Apache, who are happy to be rescued.

The story goes from there to a long trail back to Tucson. They make new friends, and new enemies. They ride together as well as alone when the need arises. All the while, you’re hoping they’re going to make it back home, but this being the West in the late 1800’s, you are not guaranteed the outcome you’d like. But, they make the best of it, as everybody does in these books. At one point, they are sitting with a man who would have liked to be a scholar had he been born to another time or place who says, “I have seen my crops grow and my herds increase, and if I have not written words upon paper as I should like to have done, I have written large upon the page of life that was left open for me.” I know these are fictional novels, not self help books, but let’s do this. Let’s write large upon the page of life that is left open for us. Let’s not worry about the things that we don’t get to do, lets simply live this life that we’ve been given the best way we can. Let’s be Sacketts for a while.