Back in the 1940's, I started reading Jack London's Call of the Wild, but never finished it. It was just too boring for me, and I never read anything else by him. However, in this Mammoth Book of Westerns is a short story by him, All Gold Canyon, and I had to force myself to get through the first few pages. He took three to four pages describing how wonderful and verdant the canyon was with the stream forming a pond as it passes through the valley. He takes his time pointing out the cliff and the hillsides and the butterflies and flowers an bushes, etc., before there is any human showing up in the story.
A prospector shows up finally and the narrative takes a slightly different turn with the prospector admiring the perfect valley and deciding to dig for gold. He enjoys the hard work and the days of solitude as he digs his shovel into the ground here and there and decides on a plan to continue looking for gold. He found some small flecks by the stream and works up and down it until there is no more flecks showing in the panned earth. He starts digging up the hillside from the stream from the points where the last gold showed, his diggings making an inverted V from the top. He works from sunup to sundown, not taking lunch breaks, and falling onto his bedroll worn out at night. He then digs horizontally between the trails making the V, knowing that soon he will find the pot of gold. He is almost there when danger raises it's ugly head and leads to a fitting climax and an end to the digs. I won't give away the ending. but the story when it gets going is a fine piece of writing that I found enjoyable, changing my mind about London.
Now, we leave Alaska and head to Nebraska. Actually, I think the gold mining story was set in California, but it doesn't rhyme. Anyway, The Last Thunder Song, by John G. Neihardt, IS set in Nebraska on an Indian reservation. It's been a long spell with no rain on the hills and vales and the Indians are getting restless. The old Medicine Man, decides to do a rain dance in the hopes it will bring the badly needed rain to water the crops and end the drought. In attendance are some whites some Omahas, and some young Indian boys who have gone to the "White man's school." The Medicine Man begins dancing as the crowd watches, and he gets into the swing of it, feeling younger as he lifts his feet and legs and waves his arms, and sings for rain. He is about ready to finish, when some laughing from the young boys changes the mood and the Medicine Man knows the dance will not work. The new ways are taking over and the dancing is just for show, the old man knows and he feels older than he has ever felt before.
It was a nice story, well written, and reflected the changing world of the Indian in America.