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.