Down The Long Hills

[openbook booknumber=”0553106910″]


My second foray into westerns was Down The Long Hills by Louis L’Amour, and while I liked it better than the first novel I read by him a lot of my complaints about the first one transferred on into the second one.

Down The Long Hills is a story about two children being escorted across the west, one a three year old crossing with her parents, and the other a seven year old boy crossing with that family and many others on the way to where his pa had prepared a place for him out in Fort Bridger. The wagon train gets attacked by Indians and the children have to push on alone across Wyoming in fall with winter setting in against increasingly mounting odds with nothing but a sack of food, a knife and a horse.

One thing that was kind of fun about this book was the fact that I had been to several of the places they talked about. So the lack of in depth description wasn’t so bad because I knew the country. I also knew first hand how poorly he described it because he really didn’t come anywhere close.

Hardy had learned in a hard school, where the tests are given by savage Indians, by bitter cold, by hunger. These were tests where the result was not just a bad mark if one failed. The result was a starved or frozen body somewhere, forgotten in the wilderness.

It was also a lot of fun to read about this little boy braving Wyoming and crossing the entire state all by himself with a three year old to take care of on top of it. Today you would never have heard of such a thing. A child getting lost out in the desert would be a death knell and even with a huge search party might never be found. This story was about three men traveling together to find the children across a whole state and yet they seemed to have better odds.

That was the not fun thing about the story. It seemed almost too much to be believed. The things they faced got crazier and crazier (Indians, wild animals, outlaws, freezing cold, little food) and yet they still kept right on surviving relatively unscathed. It was more than could be believed. I was willing to follow along for the ride though, because who wants to read about a bunch of kids that go off to die a horrible death?

If you like westerns and want to read a story about kids that don’t spend all of their time playing video games and whining about chores and instead show a level of competence and perseverance that most adults lack, than this story is definitely for you.

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