The Sackett Brothers didn't know what brand of trouble had Cousin Logan stirred up, but he needed beef cattle badly. So with Tell Sackett ramrodding, Tyrel, Orrin, and Cap Rountree ride north to the wild country--pushing 1100 head of fat steers across the wide Dakota plains toward the mountains of far western Canada. Past Sioux, past Logan's treacherous enemies, through trails no cattle had ever crossed, the Sacketts drive on. Because when you step on the toes of one Sackett they all come running.One of the outstanding narratives of our time, the chronicle of the Sackett family is one of the great achievements of one of our finest storytellers. In Lonely on the Mountain, the solitary, wandering Sackett brothers make a stand together...to save one of their own.
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December 31, 1979
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Excerpt from Lonely on the Mountain by Louis L'Amour
THERE WILL COME a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.
Pa said that when I was a boy. There was a hot, dry wind moaning through the hot, dry trees, and we were scared of fire in the woods, knowing that if fire came, all we had would go.
We had crops in the ground, but there'd been no rain for weeks. We were scrapin' the bottom of the barrel for flour and drinkin' coffee made from ground-up beans. We'd had our best cow die, and the rest was ganted up, so's you could count every rib.
Two years before, pa had set us to diggin' a well. "Pa " I asked. "Why dig a well We've got the creek yonder and three flowin' springs on the place. It's needless work."
He lifted his head, and he looked me right in the eye and said, "Dig a well."
We dug a well.
We grumbled, but when pa said dig, you just naturally dug. And lucky it was, too.
For there came the time when the bed of the creek was dust and the springs that had always flowed weren't flowin'. We had water, though. We had water from a deep, cold well. We watered our stock, we watered our kitchen garden, and we had what was needful for drinkin' because of that well.
Now, years later and far out on the grass prairie, I was remembering and wondering what I could do that I hadn't done.
No matter which way you looked between you and anywhere else, there was a thousand miles of grass -- and the Sioux.
The Sioux hadn't come upon us yet, but they were about, and every man-jack of us knew it. It could be they hadn't cut our sign yet, but cut it they would, and when they did, they would come for us.
We were seven men, including the Chinese cook, in no shape to fight off a bunch of Sioux warriors if they came upon us. Scattered around the cattle, we'd be in no shape at all.
"If it comes," I told them, "center on me and we'll kill enough cattle for a fort and make a stand."
Have you seen that Dakota country It varies some, but it's likely to be flat or low, rolling hills, with here and there a slough. You don't find natural places to fort. The buffalo wallows offer the best chance if there's one handy. The trouble was, if the Sioux came upon us, it would be a spot of their choosing, not ours.
The buffalo-chip fire had burned down to a sullen red glow by the time Tyrel rode back into camp. He stripped the gear from his mount and carried his saddle up to the fire for a pillow. He took off his chaps, glancing over at me, knowing I was awake.
"They're quiet, Tell" -- he spoke soft so's not to wake the others, who were needful of sleep -- "but every one of them is awake."
"There's something out there. Something or somebody."
"This here is Injun country." Tyrel shucked his gun belt and placed it handy to his bed. He sat down to pull off his boots. "We knew that before we started."
He went to the blackened, beat-up coffee pot and looked over at me. "Toss me your cup."
Well, I wasn't sleeping, nohow. I sat up and took the coffee. "It ain't Injuns," I said. "Least it doesn't feel like Injuns. This is something else. We've been followed, Tyrel. You know that as well as me. We've been followed for the last three or four days."
The coffee was strong enough to grow hair on a saddle. "Tye You recall the time pa wanted us to dig that well He was always one to be ready for whatever might come. Not that he went around expecting trouble. He just wanted to be ready for whatever happened. For anything."
"That was him, alright."