October 1, 2010

My Father and Louis L’Amour

What I’m Reading Today: More wonderful Tolkien and also some great Rick Bass, in preparation for working with him next week!

I was talking to a friend yesterday whose dad is dying (my heart goes out to her), and it made me think of my dad, who passed away in 1991 of cancer and strep pneumonia.

My dad was a great man in the quiet way that some men are. He was one of those who are the backbone, the foundation of our society. He grew up on a Wyoming cattle ranch in the 1920s and served in the cavalry in World War II. He wasn’t able to finish his college degree at UW because he joined up. He met my mom, who is from Iowa, while on duty in Oregon on coast patrol. They saw each other across a dance floor, and he proposed to her on a bridge overlooking a river. Then he went away to war. He ended up serving in France, Germany, and Austria (right next to the more famous 101st Airborne, a la Band of Brothers). After the war, he and my mom were on their way to Alaska to be fisherman when my grandpa died and they came back to the ranch. They had eight kids (one who died at birth) and at first worked on the ranch side of things and then switched with my uncle and worked the farm side of things.

My dad love geology and was a rock hound. In fact, his little finger on his right hand got chopped off by a rock saw. He loved to travel, but wasn’t able to do much of it. He loved big band music ~ Nat King Cole, Sinatra, Marty Robbins, Martin Denny. He also loved to read westerns. Scifi too, but westerns remained his favorite.

So, in honor of my dad, today I’m going to post some Louis L’Amour. I loved Louis L’Amour as a kid and I read everything of his I could lay my hands on. My favorites were the Sackett series and The Walking Drum. (As an adult, he doesn’t match what I like to read, but I remember almost atavistically the love I had for him as a child. Parts of it still sings to me.) So, here you are, the beginning of Sackett’s Land.

It was my devil’s own temper that brought me to grief, my temper and a skill with weapons born of my father’s teaching.

Yet without that skill I might have emptied my life’s blood upon the cobblestones of Stamford, emptied my body of blood … and for what?

Until that moment in Stamford it would have been said that no steadier lad lived in all the fen-lands than Barnabas Sackett, nor one who brought better from his fields than I, or did better at the eeling in the fens that were my home.

Then a wayward glance from a lass, a moment of red, bursting fury from from a stranger, a blow given and a blow returned, and all that might have been my life vanished like a fog upon the fens beneath a summer sun.

In that year of 1599 a man of my station did not strike a man of noble birth and expect to live ~ or if he lived, to keep the hand that struck the blow.

Trouble came quickly upon me, suddenly, and without warning.

Ah, it rings of noble purpose, doesn’t it?

Questions of the Day: What did your father read?

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