I return to The Mammoth Book of Westerns. In high school in the late forties, I was introduced to Oliver LaFarge. The teacher raved about him. She was a nice lady, but on the liberal side and read Newsweek instead of Time. She went on about Mister LaFarge like he was the best writer since Shakespeare, because he wrote about the Indians and their ways. He had won a Pulitzer Prize for his novel, Laughing Boy, and she recommended it as THE story to read. I started reading it at the library, but I can't remember finishing it. At the time, I thought it was pretty dull. LaFarge was an anthropologist and the President of the American Indian Affairs Association. Now, having read his short story, The Young Warrior, I understand what my teacher was getting at - realism.
In The Young Warrior, a young boy sets out on his first hunting party led by Nantai, an experienced warrior. The young Indian is full of eagerness to do his part as they head for a small town in Mexico to raid, but were able to take only a couple of horses. On the following day, they spot a group of four wagons heading west and follow them. The young Indian is impetuous and ready to attack the wagons first thing, but Nantai tells him it isn't the time. It is after much watching and scouting from their hiding places that they finally launch the raid. The build up to the raid and what happens during and after was described with the realism and intensity that my teacher had indicated that makes Oliver LaFarge one of the great writers about the Indian ways. I thought it was a fine story and I may have another look at Laughing Boy.
The other story I read yesterday was written by A. B. Guthrie, Jr., author of novels about the mountain men in the Far West and the Pacific Northwest, The Big Sky, The Way West, and These Thousand Hills. The story is an excerpt from The Big Sky and has the same title. It is the story of two mountain men having a meeting with Red Horn of the Piegans and two other Indians about a forthcoming attempt by a white man to cross into the land of the Black Hawks. They are all sitting in a tepee discussing the pros and cons of the two white men joining in the party. Nothing extreme happens, but it is a very realistic version of what may have actually happened years ago among Indians and Whites. Mr. Guthrie is a fine writer who lived in Montana and was familiar with the territory about which he wrote.