Western novels great reads on cold winter nights—January 9, 2009
The western novel has always had a faithful following in this area, with traditional authors like Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour still being widely read. If the appeal of this genre is a harkening back to the days of wide open spaces and frontier adventure, then I offer another author who offers adventure, mystery and plenty of open range in his works of non-fiction.
J. Frank Dobie was a folklorist and journalist who grew up on a Texas ranch at the turn of the 20th century. Throughout his life he remained fascinated by the stories, landscape and animal life of the Southwest. “Tales of Old-Time Texas”, by the author’s admission is not action-packed, but takes on “the tempo of growing grass” because that is the tempo of the people who truly live close to the earth. These are entertaining tales about some characters you might recognize, like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, and others you might not know like Big Foot Wallace, Sam Bass and the Texas weather.
“Coronado’s Children” and “Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver” are both books about lost mines and buried treasure. When the Spanish explorers came to what is now the southwestern United States, they came in search of fabled riches of gold and silver. The hope of all that treasure spread to the English speaking settlers who followed the Spaniards and these are the tales that Dobie collected into “Coronado’s Children.” But Dobie had collected more stories of lost mines than he could fit into that first book and so “Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver” continue the tradition, telling the stories of 2 vast mines of legend, the Lost Adams Diggings and the Lost Tayopa Mine, along with other stories set in Mexico and the border country.
J. Frank Dobie was also adamant about trying to save some vestige of the open-range way of life as the world became increasingly paved, modernized and tamed. Dobie weaves folklore and natural history together in three readable books about animals of the Southwest: “The Voice of the Coyote”, “The Mustangs” and “The Longhorns.”
If you are looking for a good book for a cold winter night and enjoy tales and stories of the wide open spaces of the American West, try one of these titles by J. Frank Dobie from the Hastings Public Library.