Guide to Life and Literature of the Southwest
by J. Frank Dobie
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For all that, neither the black bear nor the grizzly has been amply conceived of as an American character. The conception must include a vast amount of folklore. In a chapter on "Bars and Bar Hunters" in On the Open Range and in "Juan Oso" and "Under the Sign of Ursa Major," chapters of Tongues of the Monte, I have indicated the nature of this dispersed epic in folk tales.

In many of the books listed under "Nature; Wild Life; Naturalists" and "Mountain Men" the bear "walks like a man."

ALTER, J. CECIL. James Bridger, Salt Lake City, 1922 reprinted by Long's College Book Co., Columbus, Ohio. Contains several versions of the famous Hugh Glass bear story.

HITTELL, THEODORE H. The Adventures of John Capen Adams, 1860; reprinted 1911, New York. OP. Perhaps no man has lived who knew grizzlies better than Adams. A rare personal narrative.

MILLER, JOAQUIN. True Bear Stories, Chicago, 1900. OP. Truth questionable in places; interest guaranteed.

MILLER, LEWIS B. Saddles and Lariats, Boston, 1909. OP. The chapter "In a Grizzly's Jaws" is a wonderful bear story.

MILLS, ENOS A. The Grizzly, Our Greatest Wild Animal, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1919. Some naturalists have accused Mills of having too much imagination. He saw much and wrote vividly.

NEIHARDT, JOHN G. The Song of Hugh Glass, New York, 1915. An epic in vigorous verse of the West's most famous man-and-bear story. This imagination-rousing story has been told over and over, by J. Cecil Alter in James Bridger, by Stanley Vestal in Mountain Men, and by other writers.

ROOSEVELT, THEODORE. Hunting Adventures in the {illust. caption = Charles M. Russell, in Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage by Carrie Adell Strahorn (1915 ) West (1885) and The Wilderness Hunter (1893)—books reprinted in parts or wholly under varying titles. Several narratives of hunts intermixed with baldfaced facts.

SETON, ERNEST THOMPSON. The Biography of a Grizzly, 1900; now published by Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York. Monarch, the Big Bear of Tallac, 1904. Graphic narratives.

SKINNER, M. P. Bears in the Yellowstone, Chicago, 1925. OP. A naturalist's rounded knowledge, pleasantly told.

STEVENS, MONTAGUE. Meet Mr. Grizzly, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1943. Montague Stevens graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1881 and came to New Mexico to ranch. As respects deductions on observed data, his book is about the most mature yet published by a ranchman. Goodnight experienced more, had a more ample nature, but he lacked the perspective, the mental training, to know what to make of his observations. Another English rancher, R. B. Townshend, had perspective and charm but was not a scientific observer. So far as sense of smell goes, Meet Mr. Grizzly is as good as W. H. Hudson's A Hind in Richmond Park. On the nature and habits of grizzly bears, it is better than The Grizzly by Enos Mills.

WRIGHT, WILLIAM H. The Grizzly Bear: The Narrative of a Hunter-Naturalist, Historical, Scientific and Adventurous, New York, 1928. OP. This is not only the richest and justest book published on the grizzly; it is among the best books of the language on specific mammals. Wright had a passion for bears, for their preservation, and for arousing informed sympathy in other people. Yet he did not descend to propaganda. His The Black Bear, London, n.d., is good but no peer to his work on the grizzly. Also OP.

29. Coyotes, Lobos, and Panthers

I SEPARATE COYOTES, lobos, and panthers from the mass of animals because they, along with bears, have made such an imprint on human imagination. White-tailed deer are far more common and more widely dispersed. Men, women also, by the tens of thousands go out with rifles every fall in efforts to get near them; but the night-piercing howl and the cunning ways of the coyote, the panther's track and the rumor of his scream have inspired more folk tales than all the deer.

Lore and facts about these animals are dispersed in many books not classifiable under natural history. Lewis and Clark and nearly all the other chroniclers of Trans-Mississippi America set down much on wild life. James Pike's Scout and Ranger details the manner in which, he says, a panther covered him up alive, duplicating a fanciful and delightful tale in Gerstaecker's Wild Sports in the Far West. James B. O'Neil concludes They Die but Once with some "Bedtime Stories" that—almost necessarily—bring in a man-hungry panther.


The two full-length books on Brother Coyote listed below specify most of the printed literature on the animal. (He is "Brother" in Mexican tales and I feel much more brotherly toward him than I feel toward character assassins in political power.) It would require another book to catalogue in detail all the writings that include folk tales about Don Coyote. Ethnologists and scientific folklorists recognize what they call "the Coyote Circle" in the folklore of many tribes of Indians. Morris Edward Opler in Myths and Legends of the Lipan Apache Indians, 1940, and in Myths and Tales of the Chiricahua Apache Indians, 1942 (both issued by the American Folklore Society, New York) treats fully of this cycle. Numerous tales that belong to the cycle are included by J. Gilbert McAllister, an anthropologist who writes as a humanist, in his extended collection, "Kiowa-Apache Tales," in The Sky Is My Tipi, edited by Mody C. Boatright for the Texas Folklore Society (Publication XXII), Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, 1949.

Literary retellers of Indian coyote folk tales have been many. The majority of retellers from western Indians include Coyote. One of the very best is Frank B. Linderman, in Indian Why Stories and Indian Old-Man Stories. These titles are substantive: Old Man Coyote by Clara Kern Bayliss (New York, 1908, OP), Coyote Stories by Mourning Dove (Caldwell, Idaho, 1934, OP); Don Coyote by Leigh Peck (Boston, 1941) gets farther away from the Indian, is more juvenile. The Journal of American Folklore and numerous Mexican books have published hundreds of coyote folk tales from Mexico. Among the most pleasingly told are Picture Tales frown Mexico by Dan Storm, 1941 (Lippincott, Philadelphia). The first two writers listed below bring in folklore.

CUSHING, FRANK HAMILTON. Zuni Breadstuff, Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, New York, 1920. This extraordinary book, one of the most extraordinary ever written on a particular people, is not made up of coyote lore alone. In it the coyote becomes a character of dignity and destiny, and the telling is epic in dignity as well as in prolongation. Frank Hamilton Cushing was a genius; his sympathy, insight, knowledge, and mastery of the art of writing enabled him to reveal the spirit of the Zuni Indians as almost no other writer has revealed the spirit of any other tribe. Their attitude toward Coyote is beautifully developed. Cushing's Zuni Folk Tales (Knopf, New York, 1901, 1931) is climactic on "tellings" about Coyote.

DOBIE, J. FRANK. The Voice of the Coyote, Little, Brown, Boston, 1949. Not only the coyote but his effect on human imagination and ecological relationships. Natural history and folklore; many tales from factual trappers as well as from Mexican and Indian folk. This is a strange book in some ways. If the author had quit at the end of the first chapter, which is on coyote voicings and their meaning to varied listeners, he would still have said something. The book includes some, but by no means all, of the material on the subject in Coyote Wisdom (Publication XIV of the Texas Folklore Society, 1938) edited by J. Frank Dobie and now distributed by Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas.

GRINNELL, GEORGE BIRD. Wolves and Wolf Nature, in Trail and Camp-Fire, New York, 1897. This long chapter is richer in facts about the coyote than anything published prior to The Voice of the Coyote, which borrows from it extensively.

LOFBERG, LILA, and MALCOLMSON, DAVID. Sierra Outpost, Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1941. An extraordinary detailment of the friendship between two people, isolated by snow high in the California Sierras, and three coyotes. Written with fine sympathy, minute in observations.

MATHEWS, JOHN JOSEPH. Talking to the Moon, University of Chicago Press, 1945. A wise and spiritual interpretation of the black-jack country of eastern Oklahoma, close to the Osages, in which John Joseph Mathews lives. Not primarily about coyotes, the book illuminates them more than numerous books on particular animals illuminate their subjects.

MURIE, ADOLPH. Ecology of the Coyote in the Yellowstone, United States Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., 1940. An example of strict science informed by civilized humanity. The Wolves of Mount McKinley, United States Government Printing Of ice, Washington, D. C., 1944. Murie's combination of prolonged patience, science, and sympathy behind the observations has never been common. His ecological point of view is steady. Highly interesting reading.

YOUNG, STANLEY PAUL (with Edward A. Goldman). The Wolves of North America, American Wildlife Institute, Washington, D. C., 1944. Full information, full bibliography, without narrative power. Sketches of American Wildlife, Monumental Press, Baltimore, 1946. This slight book contains pleasant chapters on the Puma, Wolf, Coyote, Antelope and other animals characteristic of the West. (With Hartley H. T. Jackson) The Clever Coyote, Stackpole, Harrisburg, Pa., and Wildlife Management Institute, Washington, D. C., 1951. Emphasis upon the economic status and control of the species, an extended classification of subspecies, and a full bibliography make this book and Dobie's The Voice of the Coyote complemental to each other rather than duplicative.


Anybody who so wishes may call them mountain lions. Where there were Negro mammies, white children were likely to be haunted in the night by fear of ghosts. Otherwise, for some children of the South and West, no imagined terror of the night equaled the panther's scream. The Anglo-American lore pertaining to the panther is replete with stories of attacks on human beings. Indian and Spanish lore, clear down to where W. H. Hudson of the pampas heard it, views the animal as un amigo de los cristianos—a friend of man. The panther is another animal as interesting for what people associated with him have taken to be facts as for the facts themselves.

BARKER, ELLIOTT S. When the Dogs Barked 'Treed', University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1946. Mainly on mountain lions, but firsthand observations on other predatory animals also. Before he became state game warden, the author was for years with the United States Forest Service.

HIBBEN, FRANK C. Hunting American Lions, New York, 1948; reprinted by University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. Mr. Hibben considers hunting panthers and bears a terribly dangerous business that only intrepid heroes like him-self would undertake. Sometimes in this book, but more awesomely in Hunting American Bears, he manages to out-zane Zane Grey, who had to warn his boy scout readers and puerile-minded readers of added years that Roping Lions in the Grand Canyon is true in contrast to the fictional Young Lion Hunter, which uses some of the same material.

HUDSON, W. H. The Naturalist in La Plata, New York, 1892. A chapter in this book entitled "The Puma, or Lion of America" provoked an attack from Theodore Roosevelt (in Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter); but it remains the most delightful narrative-essay yet written on the subject.

YOUNG, STANLEY PAUL, and GOLDMAN, EDWARD A. The Puma, Mysterious American Cat, American Wildlife Institute, Washington, D. C., 1946. Scientific, liberal with information of human interest, bibliography. We get an analysis of the panther's scream but it does not curdle the blood.


30. Birds and Wild Flowers

NEARLY EVERYBODY ENJOYS to an extent the singing of birds and the colors of flowers; to the majority, however, the enjoyment is casual, generalized, vague, in the same category as that derived from a short spell of prattling by a healthy baby. Individuals who study birds and native flora experience an almost daily refreshment of the spirit and growth of the intellect. For them the world is an unending Garden of Delight and a hundred-yard walk down a creek that runs through town or pasture is an exploration. Hardly anything beyond good books, good pictures and music, and good talk is so contributory to the enrichment of life as a sympathetic knowledge of the birds, wild flowers, and other native fauna and flora around us.

The books listed are dominantly scientific. Some include keys to identification. Once a person has learned to use the key for identifying botanical or ornithological species, he can spend the remainder of his life adding to his stature.


BAILEY, FLORENCE MERRIAM. Birds of New Mexico, 1928. OP. Said by those who know to be at the top of all state bird books. Much on habits.

BEDICHEK, ROY. Adventures with a Texas Naturalist (1947) and Karankaway Country (1950), Doubleday, Garden City, N. Y. These are books of essays on various aspects of nature, but nowhere else can one find an equal amount of penetrating observation on chimney swifts, Inca doves, swallows, golden eagles, mockingbirds, herons, prairie chickens, whooping cranes, swifts, scissortails, and some other birds. As Bedichek writes of them they become integrated with all life.

BRANDT, HERBERT. Arizona and Its Bird Life, Bird Research Foundation, Cleveland, 1951. This beautiful, richly illustrated volume of 525 pages lives up to its title; the birds belong to the Arizona country, and with them we get pines, mesquites, cottonwoods, John Slaughter's ranch, the northward-flowing San Pedro, and many other features of the land. Herbert Brandt's Texas Bird Adventures, illustrated by George Miksch Sutton (Cleveland, 1940), is more on the Big Bend country and ranch country to the north than on birds, though birds are here.

DAWSON, WILLIAM LEON. The Birds of California, San Diego, etc., California, 1923. OP. Four magnificent volumes, full in illustrations, special observations on birds, and scientific data.

DOBIE, J. FRANK, who is no more of an ornithologist than he is a geologist, specialized on an especially characteristic bird of the Southwest and gathered its history, habits, and folklore into a long article: "The Roadrunner in Fact and Folklore," in In the Shadow of History, Publication XV of the Texas Folklore Society, Austin, 1939. OP. "Bob More: Man and Bird Man," Southwest Review, Dallas, Vol. XXVII, No. 1 (Autumn, 1941).

NICE, MARGARET MORSE. The Birds of Oklahoma, Norman, 1931. OP. United States Biological Survey publication.

OBERHOLSER, HARRY CHURCH. The Birds of Texas in manuscript form. "A stupendous work, the greatest of its genre, by the nation's outstanding ornithologist, who has been fifty years making it." The quotation is condensed from an essay by Roy Bedichek in the Southwest Review, Dallas, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 1 (Winter, 1953). Maybe some day some man or woman with means will see the light of civilized patriotism and underwrite the publication of these great volumes. Patriotism that does not act to promote the beautiful, the true, and the good had better pipe down.

PETERSON, ROGER TORY. A Field Guide to Western Birds (1941) and A Field Guide to the Birds (birds of the eastern United States, revised 1947), Houghton Mifflin, Boston. These are standard guides for identification. The range, habits, and characteristics of each bird are summarized.

SIMMONS, GEORGE FINLEY. Birds of the Austin Region, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1925. A very thorough work, including migratory as well as nesting species.

SUTTON, GEORGE MIKSCH. Mexican Birds, illustrated with water-color and pen-and-ink drawings by the author, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1951. The main part of this handsome book is a personal narrative—pleasant to read even by one who is not a bird man—of discovery in Mexico. To it is appended a resume of Mexican bird life for the use of other seekers. Sutton's Birds in the Wilderness: Adventures of an Ornithologist (Macmillan, New York, 1936) contains essays on pet roadrunners, screech owls, and other congenial folk of the Big Bend of Texas. The Birds of Brewster County, Texas, in collaboration with Josselyn Van Tyne, is a publication of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1937.

Wild Turkey. Literature on this national bird is enormous. Among books I name first The Wild Turkey and Its Hunting, by Edward A. McIlhenny, New York, 1914. OP. McIlhenny was a singular man. His family settled on Avery Island, Louisiana, in 1832; he made it into a famous refuge for wild fowls. The memories of individuals of a family long established on a country estate go back several lifetimes. In two books of Negro folklore and in The Alligator's Life History, McIlhenny wrote as an inheritor. Initially, he was a hunter-naturalist, but scientific enough to publish in the Auk and the Journal of Heredity. Age, desire for knowledge, and practice in the art of living dimmed his lust for hunting and sharpened his interest in natural history. His book on the wild turkey, an extension into publishable form of a manuscript from a civilized Alabama hunter, is delightful and illuminative reading.

The Wild Turkey of Virginia, by Henry S. Mosby and Charles O. Handley, published by the Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries of Virginia, Richmond, 1943, is written from the point of view of wild life management. It contains an extensive bibliography. Less technical is The American Wild Turkey, by Henry E. Davis, Small Arms Technical Company, Georgetown, South Carolina, 1949. No strain, or subspecies, of the wild turkey is foreign to any other, but human blends in J. Stokley Ligon, naturalist, are unique. The title of his much-in-little book is History and Management of Merriam's Wild Turkey, New Mexico Game and Fish Commission, through the University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1946.


The scientific literature on botany of western America is extensive. The list that follows is for laymen as much as for botanists.

BENSON, LYMAN, and DARROW, ROBERT A. A Manual of Southwestern Desert Trees and Shrubs, Biological Science Bulletin No. 6, University of Arizona, Tucson, 1944. A thorough work of 411 pages, richly illustrated, with general information added to scientific description.

CARR, WILLIAM HENRY. Desert Parade: A Guide to Southwestern Desert Plants and Wildlife, Viking, New York, 1947.

CLEMENTS, FREDERIC E. and EDITH S. Rocky Mountain Flowers, H. W. Wilson, New York, 1928. Scientific description, with glossary of terms and key for identification.

COULTER, JOHN M. Botany of Western Texas, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, 1891-94. OP. Nothing has appeared during the past sixty years to take the place of this master opus.

GEISER, SAMUEL WOOD. Horticulture and Horticulturists in Early Texas, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, 1945. Historical-scientific, more technical than the author's Naturalists of the Frontier.

JAEGER, EDMUND C. Desert Wild Flowers, Stanford University Press, California, 1940, revised 1947. Scientific but designed for use by any intelligent inquirer.

LUNDELL, CYRUS L., and collaborators. Flora of Texas, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, 1942-. A "monumental" work, highly technical, being published part by part.

MCKELVEY, SUSAN DELANO. Yuccas of the Southwestern United States, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1938. Definitive work in two volumes.

Range Plant Handbook, prepared by the Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1937. A veritable encyclopedia, illustrated.

SCHULZ, ELLEN D. Texas Wild Flowers, Chicago, 1928. Good as a botanical guide and also for human uses; includes lore on many plants. OP. Cactus Culture, Orange Judd, New York, 1932. Now in revised edition.

SILVIUS, W. A. Texas Grasses, published by the author, San Antonio, 1933. A monument, of 782 illustrated pages, to a lifetime's disinterested following of knowledge "like a star."

STEVENS, WILLIAM CHASE. Kansas Wild Flowers, University of Kansas Press, Lawrence, 1948. This is more than a state book, and the integration of knowledge, wisdom, and appreciation of flower life with botanical science makes it appeal to layman as well as to botanist. 463 pages, 774 illustrations. Applicable to the whole plains area.

STOCKWELL, WILLIAM PALMER, and BREAZEALE, LUCRETIA. Arizona Cacti, Biological Science Bulletin No. 1, University of Arizona, Tucson, 1933. Beautifully illustrated.

THORNBER, JOHN JAMES, and BONKER, FRANCES. The Fantastic Clan: The Cactus Family, New York, 1932. OP.

THORP, BENJAMIN CARROLL. Texas Range Grasses, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1952. A survey of 168 species of grasses, their adaptability to soils and regions, and their values for grazing. Beautifully illustrated and printed, but no index.

WHITEHOUSE, EULA. Texas Wild Flowers in Natural Colors, 1936; republished 1948 in Dallas. OP. Toward 200 flowers are pictured in colors, each in conjunction with descriptive material. The finding lists are designed to enable novices to identify flowers. A charming book.

{illust. caption = Paisano (roadrunner) means fellow-countryman}

31. Negro Folk Songs and Tales

WEST OF A WAVERING line along the western edge of the central parts of Texas and Oklahoma the Negro is not an important social or cultural element of the Southwest, just as the modern Indian hardly enters into Texas life at all and the Mexican recedes to the east. Negro folk songs and tales of the Southwest have in treatment been blended with those of the South. Dorothy Scarborough's On the Trail of Negro Folk-Songs (1925, OP) derives mainly from Texas, but in making up the body of a Negro song, Miss Scarborough says, "You may find one bone in Texas, one in Virginia and one in Mississippi." Leadbelly, a guitar player equally at home in the penitentiaries of Texas and Louisiana, furnished John A. and Alan Lomax with Negro Folk Songs as Sung by Leadbelly, New York, 1936 (OP). The Lomax anthologies, American Ballads and Folk Songs, 1934, and Our Singing Country, 1941 (Macmillan, New York) and Carl Sandburg's American Songbag (Harcourt, Brace, New York, 1927) all give the Negro of the Southwest full representation.

Three books of loveliness by R. Emmett Kennedy, Black Cameos (1924), Mellows (1925), and More Mellows (1931) represent Louisiana Negroes. All are OP. An excellent all-American collection is James Weldon Johnson's Book of American Negro Spirituals, Viking, New York, 1940. Bibliographies and lists of other books will be found in The Negro and His Songs (1925, OP) and Negro Workaday Songs, by Howard W. Odum and Guy B. Johnson, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1926, and in American Negro Folk-Songs, by Newman I. White, Cambridge, 1928.

A succinct guide to Negro lore is American Folk Song and Folk Lore: A Regional Bibliography, by Alan Lomax and Sidney R. Crowell, New York, 1942. OP.

Narrowing the field down to Texas, J. Mason Brewer's "Juneteenth," in Tone the Bell Easy, Publication X of the Texas Folklore Society, Austin, 1932, is outstanding as a collection of tales. In volume after volume the Texas Folklore Society has published collections of Negro songs and tales A. W. Eddins, Martha Emmons, Gates Thomas, and H. B. Parks being principal contributors.

32. Fiction—Including Folk Tales

FROM THE DAYS of the first innocent sensations in Beadle's Dime Novel series, on through Zane Grey's mass production and up to any present-day newsstand's crowded shelf of Ace High and Flaming Guns magazines, the Southwest, along with all the rest of the West, has been represented in a fictional output quantitatively stupendous. Most of it has betrayed rather than revealed life, though not with the contemptible contempt for both audience and subject that characterizes most of Hollywood's pictures on the same times, people, and places. Certain historical aspects of the fictional betrayal of the West may be found in E. Douglas Branch's The Cowboy and His Interpreters, in The House of Beadle and Adams and Its Dime and Nickel Novels, by Albert Johannsen in two magnificent volumes, and in Jay Monaghan's The Great Rascal: The Life and Adventures of Ned Buntline Buntline having been perhaps the most prolific of all Wild West fictionists.

Some "Westerns" have a kind of validity. If a serious reader went through the hundreds of titles produced by William McLeod Raine, Dane Coolidge, Eugene Cunningham,. B. M. Bower, the late Ernest Haycox, and other manufacturers of range novels who have known their West at firsthand, he would find, spottedly, a surprising amount of truth about land and men, a fluency in genuine cowboy lingo, and a respect for the code of conduct. Yet even these novels have added to the difficulty that serious writing in the Western field has in getting a hearing on literary, rather than merely Western, grounds. Any writer of Westerns must, like all other creators, be judged on his own intellectual development. "The Western and Ernest Haycox," by James Fargo, in Prairie Schooner, XXVI (Summer, 1952) has something on this subject.

Actualities in the Southwest seem to have stifled fictional creation. No historical novel dealing with Texas history has achieved the drama of the fall of the Alamo or the drawing of the black beans, has presented a character with half the reality of Sam Houston, Jim Bowie, or Sallie Skull, or has captured the flavor inherent in the talk on many a ranch gallery.

Historical fiction dealing with early day Texas is, however, distinctly maturing. As a dramatization of Jim Bowie and the bowie knife, The Iron Mistress, by Paul Wellman (Doubleday, Garden City, New York, 1951), is the best novel published so far dealing with a figure of the Texas revolution. In Divine Average (Little, Brown, Boston, 1952), Elithe Hamilton Kirkland weaves from her seasoned knowledge of life and from "realities of those violent years in Texas history between 1838 and 1858" a story of human destiny. She reveals the essential nature of Range Templeton more distinctly, more mordantly, than history has revealed the essential nature of Sam Houston or any of his contemporaries. The wife and daughter of Range Templeton are the most plausible women in any historical novel of Texas that I have read. The created world here is more real than the actual.

Among the early tale-tellers of the Southwest are Jeremiah Clemens, who wrote Mustang Gray, Mollie E. Moore Davis, of plantation tradition, Mayne Reid, who dared convey real information in his romances, Charles W. Webber, a naturalist, and T. B. Thorpe, creator of "The Big Bear of Arkansas."

Fiction that appeared before World War I can hardly be called modern. No fiction is likely to appear, however, that will do better by certain types of western character and certain stages of development in western society than that produced by Bret Harte, with his gamblers; stage drivers, and mining camps; O. Henry with his "Heart of the West" types; Alfred Henry Lewis with his "Wolfville" anecdotes and characters; Owen Wister, whose Virginian remains the classic of cowboy novels without cows; and Andy Adams, whose Log of a Cowboy will be read as long as people want a narrative of cowboys sweating with herds.

The authors listed below are in alphabetical order. Those who seem to me to have a chance to survive are not exactly in that order.

FRANK APPLEGATE (died 1932) wrote only two books, Native Tales of New Mexico and Indian Stories from the Pueblos, but as a delighted and delightful teller of folk tales his place is secure.

MARY AUSTIN seems to be settling down as primarily an expositor. Her novels are no longer read, but the simple tales in One-Smoke Stories (her last book, 1934) and in some nonfiction collections, notably Lost Borders and The Flock, do not recede with time.

While the Southwest can hardly claim Willa Cather, of Nebraska, her Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927), which is made out of New Mexican life, is not only the best-known novel concerned with the Southwest but one of the finest of America.

Despite the fact that it is not on the literary map, Will Levington Comfort's Apache (1931) remains for me the most moving and incisive piece of writing on Indians of the Southwest that I have found.

If a teller of folk tales and plotless narratives belongs in this chapter, then J. Frank Dobie should be mentioned for the folk tales in Coronado's Children, Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver, and Tongues of the Monte, also for some of his animal tales in The Voice of the Coyote, outlaw and maverick narratives in The Longhorns, and "The Pacing White Steed of the Prairies" and other horse stories in The Mustangs.

The characters in Harvey Fergusson's Wolf Song (1927) are the Mountain Men of Kit Carson's time, and the city of their soul is rollicky Taos. It is a lusty, swift song of the pristine earth. Fergusson's The Blood of the Conquerors (1931) tackles the juxtaposition of Spanish-Mexican and Anglo-American elements in New Mexico, of which state he is a native. Grant of Kingdom (1850) is strong in wisdom life, vitality of character, and historical values.

FRED GIPSON'S Hound-Dog Man and The Home Place lack the critical attitude toward life present in great fiction but they are as honest and tonic as creek bottom soil and the people in them are genuine.

FRANK GOODWYN'S The Magic of Limping John (New York, 1944, OP) is a coherence of Mexican characters, folk tales, beliefs, and ways in the ranch country of South Texas. There is something of magic in the telling, but Frank Goodwyn has not achieved objective control over imagination or sufficiently stressed the art of writing.

PAUL HORGAN of New Mexico has in The Return of the Weed (short stories), Far from Cibola, and other fiction coped with modern life in the past-haunted New Mexico.

OLIVER LAFARGE'S Laughing Boy (1929) grew out of the author's ethnological knowledge of the Navajo Indians. He achieves character.

TOM LEA'S The Brave Bulls (1949) has, although it is a sublimation of the Mexican bullfighting world, Death and Fear of Death for its dominant theme. It may be compared in theme with Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage. It is written with the utmost of economy, and is beautiful in its power. The Wonderful Country (1952), a historical novel of the frontier, but emphatically not a "Western," recognizes more complexities of society. Its economy and directness parallel the style of Tom Lea's drawings and paintings, with which both books are illustrated.

Sundown, by John Joseph Mathews (1934), goes more profoundly than Laughing Boy into the soul of a young Indian (an Osage) and his people. Its translation of the "long, long thoughts" of the boy and then of "shades of the prison house" closing down upon him is superb writing. The "shades of the prison house" come from oil, with all of the world's coarse thumbs that go with oil.

GEORGE SESSIONS PERRY'S Hold Autumn in Your Hand (1941) incarnates a Texas farm hand too poor "to flag a gut-wagon," but with the good nature, dignity, and independence of the earth itself. Walls Rise Up (1939) is a kind of Crock of Gold, both whimsical and earthy, laid on the Brazos River.

KATHERINE ANNE PORTER is as dedicated to artistic perfection as was A. E. Housman. Her output has, therefore, been limited: Flowering Judas (1930, enlarged 1935); Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939), The Leaning Tower (1944). Her stories penetrate psychology, especially the psychology of a Mexican hacienda, with rare finesse. Her small canvases sublimate the inner realities of men and women. She appeals only to cultivated taste, and to some tastes no other fiction writer in America today is her peer in subtlety.

EUGENE MANLOVE RHODES died in 1934. Most of his novels—distinguished by intricate plots and bright dialogue—had appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. His finest story is "Paso Por Aqui," published in the volume entitled Once in the Saddle (1927). Gene Rhodes, who has a canyon—on which he ranched—named for him in New Mexico, was an artist; at the same time, he was a man akin to his land and its men. He is the only writer of the range country who has been accorded a biography—The Hired Man on Horseback, by May D. Rhodes, his wife. See under "Range Life."

CONRAD RICHTER'S The Sea of Grass (1937) is a kind of prose poem, beautiful and tragic. Lutie, wife of the owner of the grass, is perhaps the most successful creation of a ranch woman that fiction has so far achieved.

DOROTHY SCARBOROUGH'S The Wind (1925) excited the wrath of chambers of commerce and other boosters in West Texas—a tribute to its realism.

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck (1939), made Okies a word in the American language. Although dated by the Great Depression, its humanity and realism are beyond date. It is among the few good novels produced by America in the first half of the twentieth century.

JOHN W. THOMASON, after fighting as a marine in World War I, wrote Fix Bayonets (1926), followed by Jeb Stuart (1930). A native Texan, he followed the southern tradition rather than the western. Lone Star Preacher (1941) is a strong and sympathetic characterization of Confederate fighting men woven into fictional form.

In High John the Conqueror (Macmillan, 1948) John W. Wilson conveys real feeling for the tragic life of Negro sharecroppers in the Brazos bottoms. He represents the critical awareness of life that has come to modern fiction of the Southwest, in contrast to the sterile action, without creation of character, in most older fiction of the region.

33. Poetry and Drama

"KNOWLEDGE itself is power," Sir Francis Bacon wrote in classical Latin, and in abbreviated form the proverb became a familiar in households and universities alike. But knowledge of what? There is no power in knowledge of mediocre verse.

I had rather flunk my Wasserman test Than read a poem by Edgar A. Guest.

The power of great poetry lies not in knowledge of it but in assimilation of it. Most talk about poetry is vacuous. Poetry can pass no power into any human being unless it itself has power—power of beauty, truth, wit, humor, pathos, satire, worship, and other attributes, always through form. No poor poetry is worth reading. Taste for the best makes the other kind insipid.

Compared with America's best poetry, most poetry of the Southwest is as mediocre as American poetry in the mass is as compared with the great body of English poetry between Chaucer and Masefield. Yet mediocre poetry is not so bad as mediocre sculpture. The mediocre in poetry is merely fatuous; in sculpture, it is ugly. Generations to come will have to look at Coppini's monstrosity in front of the Alamo; it can't rot down or burn up. Volumes of worthless verse, most of it printed at the expense of the versifiers, hardly come to sight, and before long they disappear from existence except for copies religiously preserved in public libraries.

Weak fiction goes the same way. But a good deal of very bad prose in the nonfiction field has some value. In an otherwise dull book there may be a solitary anecdote, an isolated observation on a skunk, a single gesture of some human being otherwise highly unimportant, one salty phrase, a side glimpse into the human comedy. If poetry is not good, it is positively nothing.

The earliest poet of historical consequence the only form of his poetical consequence—of the Southwest was Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar. He led the Texas cavalry at San Jacinto, became president of the Republic of Texas, organized the futile Santa Fe Expedition, gathered up six volumes of notes and letters for a history of Texas that might have been as raw-meat realistic as anything in Zola or Tolstoy. Then as a poet he reached his climax in "The Daughter of Mendoza"—a graceful but moonshiny imitation of Tom Moore and Lord Byron. Perhaps it is better for the weak to imitate than to try to be original.

It would not take one more than an hour to read aloud all the poetry of the Southwest that could stand rereading. At the top of all I should place Fay Yauger's "Planter's Charm," published in a volume of the same title. With it belongs "The Hired Man on Horseback," by Eugene Manlove Rhodes, a long poem of passionate fidelity to his own decent kind of men, with power to ennoble the reader, and with the form necessary to all beautiful composition. This is the sole and solitary piece of poetry to be found in all the myriads of rhymes classed as "cowboy poetry." I'd want Stanley Vestal's "Fandango," in a volume of the same title. Margaret Bell Houston's "Song from the Traffic," which takes one to the feathered mesquites and the bluebonnets, might come next. Begging pardon of the perpetually palpitating New Mexico lyricists, I would skip most of them, except for bits of Mary Austin, Witter Bynner, Haniel Long, and maybe somebody I don't know, and go to George Sterling's "Father Coyote"—in California. Probably I would come back to gallant Phil LeNoir's "Finger of Billy the Kid," written while he was dying of tuberculosis in New Mexico. I wouldn't leave without the swift, brilliantly economical stanzas that open the ballad of "Sam Bass," and a single line, "He came of a solitary race," in the ballad of "Jesse James."

Several other poets have, of course, achieved something for mortals to enjoy and be lifted by. Their work has been sifted into various anthologies. The best one is Signature of the Sun: Southwest Verse, 1900-1950, selected and edited by Mabel Major and T. M. Pearce, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1950. Two other anthologies are Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp, by John A. Lomax, 1919, reprinted in 1950 by Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York; The Road to Texas, by Whitney Montgomery, Kaleidograph, Dallas, 1940. Montgomery's Kaleidograph Press has published many volumes by southwestern poets. Somebody who has read them all and has read all the poets represented, without enough of distillation, in Signature of the Sun could no doubt be juster on the subject than I am.

Like historical fiction, drama of the Southwest has been less dramatic than actuality and less realistic than real characters. Lynn Riggs of Oklahoma, author of Green Grow the Lilacs, has so far been the most successful dramatist.

34. Miscellaneous Interpreters and Institutions


ART MAY BE SUBSTANTIVE, but more than being its own excuse for being, it lights up the land it depicts, shows people what is significant, cherishable in their own lives and environments. Thus Peter Hurd of New Mexico has revealed windmills, Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri has elevated mules. Nature may not literally follow art, but human eyes follow art and literature in recognizing nature.

The history of art in the Southwest, if it is ever rightly written, will not bother with the Italian "Holy Families" imported by agent-guided millionaires trying to buy exclusiveness. It will begin with clay (Indian pottery), horse hair (vaquero weaving), hide (vaquero plaiting), and horn (backwoods carving). It will note Navajo sand painting and designs in blankets.

Charles M. Russell's art has been characterized in the chapter on "Range Life." He had to paint, and the Old West was his life. More versatile was his contemporary Frederic Remington, author of Pony Tracks, Crooked Trails, and other books, and prolific illustrator of Owen Wister, Theodore Roosevelt, Alfred Henry Lewis, and numerous other writers of the West. Not so well known as these two, but rising in estimation, was Charles Schreyvogle. He did not write; his best-known pictures are reproduced in a folio entitled My Bunkie and Others. Remington, Russell, and Schreyvogle all did superb sculptoring in bronze. One of the finest pieces of sculpture in the Southwest is "The Seven Mustangs" by A. Phimister Proctor, in front of the Texas Memorial Museum at Austin.

Among contemporary artists, Ross Santee and Will James (died, 1942) have illustrated their own cow country books, some of which are listed under "Range Life" and "Horses." William R. Leigh, author of The Western Pony, is a significant painter of the range. Edward Borein of Santa Barbara, California, has in scores of etchings and a limited amount of book illustrations "documented" many phases of western life. Buck Dunton of Taos illustrated also. His lithographs and paintings of wild animals, trappers, cowboys, and Indians seem secure.

I cannot name and evaluate modern artists of the Southwest. They are many, and the excellence of numbers of them is nationally recognized. Many articles have been written about the artists who during this century have lived around Taos and painted that region of the Southwest. Some of the better-known names are Ernest L. Blumenschein, Oscar Berninghaus, Ward Lockwood, B. J. O. Nordfeldt, Georgia O'Keeffe, Ila McAfee, Barbara Latham Cook, Howard Cook. Artists thrive in Arizona, Oklahoma, and Texas as well as in New Mexico. Tom Lea, of El Paso, may be quitting painting and drawing to spend the remainder of his life in writing. Perhaps he himself does not know. Jerry Bywaters, who is at work on the history of art in the Southwest, has about quit producing to direct the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Alexandre Hogue gives his strength to teaching art in Tulsa University. Exhibitions, not commentators, are the revealers of art.

A few books, all expensive, reproduce the art of certain depicters of the West and Southwest. Etchings of the West, by Edward Borein, and The West of Alfred Jacob Miller have been noted in other chapters (consult Index). Other recent art works are: Peter Hurd: Portfolio of Landscapes and Portraits, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1950; Gallery of Western Paintings, edited by Raymond Carlson, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1951 (unsatisfactory reproduction); Frederic Remington, Artist of the Old West, by Harold McCracken, Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1947 (biography and check list with many reproductions); Portrait of the Old West, by Harold McCracken, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1952 (samplings of numerous artists).

In February, 1946, Robert Taft of the University of Kansas began publishing in the Kansas Historical Quarterly chapters, richly illustrated in black and white, in "The Pictorial Record of the Old West." The book to be made from these chapters will have a historical validity missing in most picture books.


The leading literary magazine of the region is the Southwest Review, published quarterly at Southern Methodist University, Dallas. The New Mexico Quarterly, published by the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, the Arizona Quarterly, published by the University of Arizona at Tucson the Colorado Quarterly, published by the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Prairie Schooner, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, are excellent exponents of current writing in the Southwest and West. All these magazines are liberated from provincialism.


Every state in the Southwest has a state historical organization that publishes. The oldest and most productive of these, outside of California, is the Texas State Historical Association, with headquarters at Austin.


A majority of the state histories of the Southwest have been written with the hope of securing an adoption for school use. It would require a blacksnake whip to make most juve-niles, or adults either, read these productions, as devoid of picturesqueness, life-blood, and intellectual content as so many concrete slabs. No genuinely humanistic history of the Southwest has ever been printed. There are good factual histories—and a history not based on facts can't possibly be good—but the lack of synthesis, of intelligent evaluations, of imagination, of the seeing eye and portraying hand is too evident. The stuff out of which history is woven—diaries, personal narratives, county histories, chronicles of ranches and trails, etc.—has been better done than history itself.


Considered scientifically, folklore belongs to science and not to the humanities. When folk and fun are not scienced out of it, it is song and story and in literature is mingled with other ingredients of life and art, as exampled by the folklore in Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. In "Indian Culture," "Spanish-Mexican Strains," "Backwoods Life and Humor," "Cowboy Songs," "The Bad Man Tradition," "Bears," "Coyotes," "Negro Folk Songs and Tales," and other chapters of this Guide numerous books charged with folklore have been listed.

The most active state society of its kind in America has been the Texas Folklore Society, with headquarters at the University of Texas, Austin. Volume XXIV of its Publications appeared in 1951, and it has published and distributed other books. Its Publications are now distributed by Southern Methodist University Press in Dallas. J. Frank Dobie, with constant help, was editor from 1922 to 1943, when he resigned. Since 1943 Mody C. Boatright has been editor.

In 1947 the New Mexico Folklore Society began publishing yearly the New Mexico Folklore Record. It is printed by the University of New Mexico Press. The University of Arizona, Tucson, has published several folklore bulletins. The California Folklore Society publishes, through the University of California Press, Berkeley, Western Folklore, a quarterly. In co-operation with the Southeastern Folklore Society, the University of Florida, Gainesville, publishes the Southern Folklore Quarterly. Levette J. Davidson of the University of Denver, author of A Guide to American Folklore, University of Denver Press, 1951, directs the Western Folklore Conference. The Journal of American Folklore has published a good deal from the Southwest and Mexico. The Sociedad Folklorica de Mexico publishes its own Anurio. Between 1929 and 1932, B. A. Botkin, editor of A Treasury of Southern Folklore, 1949, and A Treasury of Western Folklore, 1951 (Crown, New York), brought out four volumes entitled Folk-Say, University of Oklahoma Press. OP. The volumes are significant for literary utilizations of folklore and interpretations of folks.


Museums do not belong to the DAR. Their perspective on the past is constructive. The growing museums in Santa Fe, Tucson, Phoenix, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Denver, and on west into California represent the art, fauna, flora, geology, archeology, occupations, transportation, architecture, and other phases of the Southwest in a way that may be more informing than many printed volumes.

35. Subjects for Themes

THE OBJECT OF THEME-WRITING is to make a student observe, to become aware, to evaluate, to enrich himself. Any phase of life or literature named or suggested in the foregoing chapters could be taken as a subject for an essay. The most immature essay must be more than a summary; a mere summary is never an essay. The writer must synthesize, make his own combination of thoughts, facts, incidents, characteristics, anecdotes, interpretations, illustrations, according to his own pattern. A writer is a weaver, weaving various threads of various hues and textures into a design that is his own.

"Look into thy heart and write." "Write what you know about." All this is good advice in a way—but students have to write themes whether they have anything to write or not. The way to get full of a subject, to generate a conveyable interest, is to fill up on the subject. As clouds are but transient forms of matter that "change but cannot die," so most writing, even the best, is but a variation in form of experiences, ideas, observations, emotions that have been recorded over and over.

In general, the materials a student weaves are derived from three sources: what he has read, what he has heard, what he has observed and experienced himself. If he chooses to sketch an interesting character, he will make his sketch richer and more interesting if he reads all he can find that illuminates his subject's background. If he sets out to tell a legend or a series of related folk tales or anecdotes, he will improve his telling by reading what he can on the subjects that his proposed narratives treat of and by reading similar narratives already written by others. If he wishes to tell what he knows about rattlesnakes, buzzards, pet coyotes, Brahma cattle, prickly pear, cottonwoods, Caddo Lake, the Brazos River, Santa Fe adobes, or other features of the land, let him bolster and put into perspective his own knowledge by reading what others have said on the matter. Knowledge fosters originality. Reading gives ideas.

The list of subjects that follows is meant to be suggestive, and must not be regarded as inclusive. The best subject for any writer is one that he is interested in. A single name or category may afford scores of subjects. For example, take Andy Adams, the writer about cowboys and range life. His campfire yarns, the attitude of his cowboys toward their horses, what he has to say about cows, the metaphor of the range as he has recorded it, the placidity of his cowboys as opposed to Zane Grey sensationalism, etc., are a few of the subjects to be derived from a study of his books. Or take a category like "How the Early Settlers Lived." Pioneer food, transportation, sociables, houses, neighborliness, loneliness, living on game meat, etc., make subjects. Almost every subject listed below will suggest either variations or associated subjects.

The Humor of the Southwest Similes from Nature (Crockett is rich in them) The Code of Individualism The Code of the Range Six-shooter Ethics The Right to Kill The Tradition of Cowboy Gallantry (read Owen Wister's

The Virginian and A Journey in Search of Christmas; also novels by Eugene Manlove Rhodes)

Frontier Hospitality Amusements

(shooting matches, tournaments, play parties, dances, poker, horse races, quiltings, house-raisings)

The Western Gambler

(Bret Harte and Alfred Henry Lewis have idealized him in fiction; he might be contrasted with the Mississippi River gambler)

Indian Captives The Age of Horse Culture

(Spanish, Indian, Anglo-American; the horse was important enough to any one of these classes to warrant extended study)

The Cowboy's Horse The Cowboy Myth

(Mody Boatright is writing a book on the subject)

Evolution of the Frontier Criminal Lawyer

The Frontier Intellect in the Atomic Age

British Chroniclers of the West Civilized

Perspective in Writings on the Old West

The Indian in Fiction

Fictional Betrayal of the West

The West in Reality and the West on the Screen

Around the Chuck Wagon: Cowboy Yarns Stretching the Blanket

Authentic Liars

Recent Fiction of the Southwest (any writer worth writing about)

Literary Magazines of the Southwest Ranch Women Mexican Labor (on ranch, farm, or in town)

Mexican Folk Tales Backwoods Life in Frederick Gerstaecker "The Old Catdeman" in Alfred Henry Lewis' Wolfville Books

Mayne Reid as an Exponent of the Southwest (see estimate of him in Mesa, Canon and Pueblo, by Charles F. Lummis)

The Gunman in Fiction and Reality

(O. Henry, Bret Harte, Alfred Henry Lewis; The Saga of Billy the Kid, by Walter Noble Burns; Gillett's Six Years with the Texas Rangers; Webb's The Texas Rangers; Lake's Wyatt Earp)

Character of the Trail Drivers Cowboy's Life as Reflected in His Songs "Wrathy to Kill a Bear" (the frontiersman as a destroyer of wild life "I Thought I Might See Something to Shoot at" Anecdotes of the Stump Speaker Exempla of Revivalists and Campmeeting Preachers The Campmeeting Stagecoaching Life on the Santa Fe Trail The Rendezvous of the Mountain Men In the Covered Wagon Squatter Life No Shade From Grass to Wheat From Wheat to Dust Brush (a special study of prickly pear, the mesquite, or some other form of flora could be made)

Cotton (whole books are suggested here, the tenant farmer being one of the subjects)

Oil Booms Longhorns Coyote Stories Deer Nature, or Whitetails and Their Rattlesnakes, or Rattlesnake Stories Panther Stories Tarantula Lore Grasshopper Plagues The Javelina in Fact and in Folk Tale The Roadrunner (Paisano) Wild Turkeys The Poisoned-Out Prairie Dog Sheep Vanishing Sheep Herders The Bee Hunter Pot Hunters Buffalo Hunters The Bar Hunter and Bar Stories Indian Fighter Indian Hater Scalps Squaw Men Mountain Men and Grizzlies Scouts and Guides Stage Drivers Fiddlers and Fiddle Tunes Frontier Justices of the Peace (Roy Bean set the example) Horse Traders Horse Racers Newspapermen Frontier Schoolteacher Circuit Rider Pony Express Rider Folk Tales of My Community Flavorsome Characters of My Community Stanley Vestal Harvey Fergusson Kansas Cow Towns Drought and Thirst Washington Irving on the West Witty Repartee in Eugene Manlove Rhodes Bigfoot Wallace's Humor Charles M. Russell as Artist of the West (or any other western artist) Learning to See Life Around Me Features of My Own Cultural Inheritance I Heard It Back Home Family Traditions My Family's Interesting Character Doodlebugs in the Sand Bobwhites Blue Quail Coachwhips and Other Good Snakes Mockingbird Habits Jack Rabbit Lore Catfish Lore Herb Remedies

"Criticism of Life" in Southwestern Fiction

Intellectual Integrity in___ (Name of writer or writers or some locally prominent newspaper to be supplied)

{pages 197 - 222 are an Index — not included}


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