The Lonesome Gods is Louis L'Amour's biggest and most important historical novel to date, a sweeping adventure of the California frontier. Here is the fascinating story of Johannes Verne, a young man left to die by his vengeful grandfather, rescued by outlaws and raised in part by the Indians of the desert.
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January 01, 1984
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Excerpt from The Lonesome Gods by Louis L'Amour
I SAT VERY still, as befitted a small boy among strangers, staring wide-eyed into a world I did not know.
I was six years old and my father was dying.
Only last year I had lost my mother. She died longing for that far-off, lovely California where she was born, and of which she never tired of talking.
"Warm and sunny," people said when speaking of California, but I knew it as a place where fear lived.
Now we were going there. We were crossing the desert to face that fear, and I was afraid.
My father sat close beside me trying to sleep, but torn occasionally by violent spells of coughing that caused the other passengers to turn their heads, some in pity, some in irritation.
Our wagon, drawn by six half-wild mustangs, plunged into the night, rocking and rumbling over a dim track that only the driver seemed to see. Ours was a desperate venture, a lone wagon with two outriders attempting the crossing from Santa Fe to California.
Lying awake in the darkness, I remembered what people in Santa Fe had said. "It's a crazy idea! One wagon? Even if they can slip by the Apaches, the Yumas will be waiting at the crossing of the Colorado."
"Remember what happened to that last outfit? The Yumas agreed to ferry them across the river, but when they had half of them on the far side, the Yumas just took off with all their goods and stock. Left 'em to die in the desert, with nothing."
"Only they didn't die. Not all of them."
"I'll say one thing. If anybody could take a wagon through alone, it would be Doug Farley."
"Maybe. But he's only one man. As for me, I'll just wait until spring and go through with a wagon train."
When I told my father what they had said, he nodded. "We have to go now, son. I cannot wait." He hesitated, then continued. "Some folks would think me wrong to tell you of this, but you must be prepared.
"I cannot wait until spring, Johannes. The doctors say I haven't that much time. They say I am going to die. You will have to grow up without me, and growing up is never easy. People only talk about how wonderful youth is when they have forgotten how hard it was."
We had gone together to see the wagon. Doug Farley had built it for the purpose, and the planks were not only tightly fitted but caulked so it would float if need be. The side walls were lined with a double thickness of buffalo hide to add more protection from bullets.
Eight people could ride in the wagon in some comfort, but on this trip there would be but six, including me, and I wasn't very large. Each man and woman was required to have a rifle in good condition and at least two hundred rounds of ammunition. Each was required to demonstrate that he or she knew how to load and fire his or her weapon.
"We will travel by night," Farley warned us, "wherever possible. No loud talking, no noise. No shooting unless we are fired upon."
"What about hunting?" The question was asked by a thick-necked, powerful man in a black suit. His name was Fletcher. He had a square, brutal face with small eyes. I did not like him.