Sunday, September 18, 2016

Short Story by James Warner Bellah

James Warner Bellah (1899-1976) wrote several western stories, including the novels, Massacre, The Apache, Ordeal at Blood River, and A Thunder of Drums. He wrote short stories about the cavalry in his Fort Starke stories of which this one is. This one is Command. John Ford was a fan of Bellah and based his movies, Fort Apache, Rio Grande, and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon from the Fort Starke stories and Bellah worked on the screenplay of several of Ford's movies.

While reading Command, John Wayne was buzzing around in my head, since he was the star of many of Ford's movies and I couldn't get him out of my mind. In Command, John Wayne - er, Nathan Brittles, the dusty, crusty, old cavalry captain and his cadre was on a mission to find Gresham's party, who had been sent to check on some Sioux. They found them and buried what was left. The Indians had cut off their feet and hands and scalped 'em. The young officer, Cohill, Brittles' second in command, didn't get along with Brittles, thinking he was cowardly and had no faith in him as captain of the group. But Cohill was taught a lesson in commanding troops and his mind was changed regarding Nathan Brittles. That is about the plot of the story as Brittles leads his men through a maneuver or two in order to catch the Indians, Apaches in this case, red-handed as they attacked Cohill's detail.

This was put into one of Wayne's movies and I remembered it too well. That's why he was on my mind as I read the story. It was really slick the way Bellah wrote it and kept me glued to the page. A fine story contained in The Mammoth Book of Westerns.  


  1. The Mammoth Book of Westerns seems quite the treasure trove.

  2. I recently bought one of his books to have a look at. Haven't read it yet, though

    1. I don't remember reading any of his novels. I might have to look 'em up.

  3. I am a big fan of short stories. I ordered a book of western shorts that you mentioned on here before, should be here soon. Funny how sometimes a movie character seems to fit into a book so nicely.

  4. Yep, and I'm surprised at the many movies that came out of a short story, too.