Friday, November 4, 2011

The Valley of Wild Horses - by Zane Grey

The Valley of Wild Horses, a 1927 Western novel by Zane Grey. (US Edition)  (UK Edition) This is a rare post 1923 out of copyright classic.

I have written about Zane Grey before.  His enduring popularity is due not only to a fascination with the vanished American West; but also to his prose style.  There are few who can bring a landscape to life as Grey can.  But he can also tell a tale!  Warning, dialect ahead . . .

Wal, strange things happen. Jim, that kid of mine was born right out on the plowed field. An' here comes your kid—born in the cowshed on the hay!"

"It is strange," mused Blake, "though we ought to look for such happenin's out in this great west."

"Wal, Pan an' Lucy couldn't have a better birthright. It ought to settle them two kids for life."

"You mean grow up an' marry some day? Now that would be fine. Shake on it, Bill."

Pan asleep in the corner of the other room and Lucy wailing at her mother's breast were pledged to each other by their fathers.

I’ma thinkin’ that spells trouble.

These two lakes were always dry, except during the spring; and now they were full, with green grass blanketing the range as far as eye could see. By Monday long lines of cattle moved with flying dust down to the spot chosen for the roundup. As the herds closed in, the green range itself seemed to be moving. When thrown together all these cattle formed a sea of red and white, from which roared an incessant bawling. It looked impossible to separate cows and calves from the others. But dozens of fearless cowboys, riding in here and in there, soon began to cut out the cows and calves.

Western New Mexico at last! It appeared a continuation and a magnifying of all the color and wildness and vastness. Sand dunes and wastes of black lava, dry lake beds and cone-shaped extinct volcanoes, with the ragged crater mouths gaping, low ranges of yellow cedar-dotted hills, valleys of purple, and green forests on the mountain slopes—all these in endless variety were new to the cowboy of the plains. Water was conspicuous for its absence, though at long intervals of travel he crossed a stream.

This is what you really read Zane Grey for, to re-enter the past before the landscape was littered with strip malls and chain stores.

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