Read ✓ The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: And A Man Called Horse, The Hanging Tree, Lost Sister By Dorothy M. Johnson –

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: And A Man Called Horse, The Hanging Tree, Lost Sister I came across Dorothy M Johnson by tracing all those old western movies of my youth back to their sources, and what a find it has been three short stories and a novella of immense quality I guess we could call them Western fiction as they do center on the Old West and did give rise to all those western movies, but really that is a real misnomer They are really creative and thoughtful stories about life and people and they deserve to be reread and reread. This caught my eye in the reshelving area of one of the libraries where I work I hadn t read a western in a while, and I have fond memories of watching the movie version of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, so I thought I d take the book out for a ride This is a rare short story anthology where I really enjoyed every story no nags here, just hardy little mustangs The spare writing style kept me a little removed from the characters, but pulled me along swiftly through the tightly built plots I was pleasantly surprised to find a theme of love familial and romantic running throughout the tales. Four Western stories well, three stories and a novella about people trying to live in places where they don t belong The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is about a U.S Senator s very humble beginnings in the lawless towns of the West A Man Called Horse tells of one man who, captured by Indians, must learn to survive as property, whereas the woman in Lost Sister who returns to her family after forty years in captivity finds she s still a prisoner In The Hanging Tree, three lost people a haunted doctor, a would be thief, and a wounded woman all come to the gold town of Gold Creek to find new lives, and find themselves tested by a harsh world.I didn t know anything about the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance I didn t even know it was originally a short story But that one, plus The Hanging Tree and A Man Called Horse also movies now both started out as stories by Dorothy M Johnson, and together with Lost Sister are all gathered together in this great collection There were many things I didn t know before this but now, I m a fan.I could go on, or I could just post a bunch of excerpts from the stories I think I know which you would prefer This is the way the captive white man acquired wealth and honor to win a bride and save his life He shot an arrow into the sick man, a split second ahead of one of his small companions, and dashed forward to strike the still groaning man with his bow, to count first coup Then he seized the hobbled horses.By the time he had the horses secure, and with them his hope for freedom, the boys had followed, counting coup with gestures and shrieks they had practiced since boyhood, and one of them had the scalp The white man was grimly amused to see the boy double up with sudden nausea when he had the thing in his hand A Man Called Horse, pages 12 13 The marshal cleared his throat You wanted something, Mister Foster answered, Three men set me afoot on the prairie Is that an offense against the law around here The marshal eased himself and his stomach into a chair and frowned judiciously It ain t customary, he admitted The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, p 29 The major was earnest but not tactful She s been with the savages all these years, he insisted And she was only a little girl when she was taken I haven t seen her myself, but it s reasonable to assume that she ll be like an Indian woman My stately Aunt Margaret arose to show that the audience was ended Major Harris, she intoned, I cannot permit anyone to criticize my own dear sister She will live in my home, and if I do not receive official word that she is coming within a month, I shall take steps Aunt Bessie came before the month was up Lost Sister, p 53 And what the hell ails you Harrigan inquired You won What ails me, said Doc with his teeth chattering, is that my father taught me to gamble and my mother taught me it was wicked The rest of it is none of your business The Hanging Tree, p 75 Good stuff Yeah, good stuff. Months and months ago, before I even started talking about how I had to go to Montana, my mother gave me this book You have to read it she said, a recommendation which confused me greatly Why did my mother, who generally picks books for me pretty well, think short stories from the Wild West were something I should be reading I read the first story and felt uncomfortable about colonialism and put it down.But then I went to the Wild West and picked it up again And it resonated a little Okay, a LOT.Reviews of these stories say that Dorothy M Johnson makes it clear that that s How Things Really Were in the Wild West I was skeptical of this claim It s fiction, after all, and she was born in 1910, after the days of the Wild West had passed The reviews also said she creates full characters and can easily slip her point of view from settler to pioneer woman to Indian I shall examine these claims.This book consists of a novella and three short stories A Man Called Horse, Lost Sister, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance A Man Called Horse involves a white guy trying to figure out how to escape from the Indians Lost Sister is about a forty something woman who is returned to her family after growing up with the Indians, having been captured by them at a young age The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is about people shooting each other to defend themselves and taking credit and being indebted to people and having your legacy go unnoticed.These stories were okay, but I wasn t crazy about them A Man Called Horse made me uncomfortable about colonialism The other two were fine, but didn t really stick with me.However, the novella, The Hanging Tree, really drew me in This story, I think, is a masterpiece A doctor confronting a grim destiny A woman settling in a place where it is clear she does not belong A teenager coming of age The greed induced by a gold rush The mob mentality it s easy to create among a bunch of people far from home who don t understand their surroundings.It s a beautifully written story, delicately interweaving various themes and plot points with also just some crazy things that have nothing really to do with the plot, like runaway mules running down the restaurant for the prospectors and causing it to catch fire THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS IN THE WEST Andthis may sound strangebut I really believe that this is what it was like in the Old West This is what my summer would have been, if you took out the lodge, replaced it with a gold rush, took out most of the women, and took it back in time 140 years Also, you would have to make things even lawless and add a lot violence.So I highly recommend The Hanging Tree as an excellent piece of Western literature The other stories, personally, I could take or leave But that could be because, as I ve said before, I m not much of one for short stories except for those of Jhumpa Lahiri. I had to study this book with the worst teacher I ve ever had very few people will actually make fun of someone because they are going through pre cancer treatments, but this guy is a standout That aside, this short story was excellent Very cool story about developing Western culture The main character is attacked and robbed by local bad guy Liberty Vallance He tries to go the legal route only to discover that the lawless west without this particular avenue So the real hero John Wayne shoots Liberty Valance and let s the weaker man take the credit The point is that if the West is to have a culture then it needs men of reason and law, not passion and violence The short story gives us very dishonorable heroes whereas the movie cleans it up.Man, I wish we had talked about ANY of this in class The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a republication of some of the best stories of Dorothy Johnson, America s most unrecognized genius of short fiction Two of these four stories are taken from Indian Country later published as Man Called Horse , a brilliant collection of Western tales that deserves to be back in print Three of them were made into successful movies All four of these tales show the mark of genius that was typical of Johnson s work.Time Magazine compared Dorothy Johnson s work to Bret Harte and Mark Twain, and this was no hyperbole As works of literature, her Western short stories are nearly without peer, and they are often better than many histories in accurately portraying the detail and nuance of Native, frontier, and Mountain Man cultures.The first of the four stories in this volume, A Man Called Horse , is a tale of a young man raised in a wealthy Eastern family who went West, was captured by Crow Indians, and spent several years living among them It details the ways in which he changed to adapt and survive, and the lessons that he learned from the experience This theme of whites living with Indians and the effect the dramatic change of culture could have was one of Johnson s favorites, and one she captured better in her writing than anyone else This story was made into a movie in 1970, starring Richard Harris.In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance , we see another of Johnson s recurring themes the less than noble truth that often was concealed by the heroic legends that grew out of the West It is the story of a young greenhorn who rose to fame and fortune on the back of a legend that was a lie This story was made into the classic 1962 movie, the last by the great director John Ford, and starred John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart Lost Sister returns to the theme of whites living among the Indians, but this time we see it from the perspective of a family being reunited with a sister who had lived as a native for thirty years after being captured as a child Nowhere is the clash of cultures better shown than in this story of the painful attempt to re integrate this family member who had gone completely native over the years, and who only desired to return to the life and place she knew as home.The final story in this collection, The Hanging Tree , is actually a novella It is an expertly told tale of the tangled lives and fates of three people in a rough gold mining camp It explores how those who went west often were cut completely loose from their past, freely re invented themselves, and lived lives where the personal myths or nightmares that they created for themselves often had power than reality This story was made into the 1959 movie starring Gary Cooper in his final role , Karl Malden, and a young George C Scott.Anyone with an interest in the American West should be thrilled by this collection and left hungry and searching for of the brilliant writings of Dorothy Johnson I give it my highest recommendation. I enjoyed this story very much, was well written and an easy, quick read but having also seen the movie, it s not very much the same I found it interesting and entertaining Westerns are not in my normal reading but fun for a change of pace These felt very real to life for me Engaging characters Stories are short, quick reads that are very fun. All Lovers Of Westerns Know These Four Great Stories The Western Writer S Association Of America Ranked Them As Four The Best Short Stories Of The Th Century, But These Classic Tales Have Never Been Collected In One Book Until Now This Edition Is Destined To Earn A Place In Every Western Library In , Dorothy Johnson Will Receive A Star In The Gallery Of Outstanding Montanans At The Montana State Capitol At the risk of redundancy, this is a collection of four western short stories A Man Called Horse, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Lost Sister and The Hanging Tree These stories were originally published between 1947 and 1959 the afterward credits Johnson with not imposing 20th Century values on 19th Century characters, and you can well imagine the difference between even the values at the time of Johnson s writing and reading these stories today They are unapologetically racist and sexist at times coupled with Johnson s researched level of detail, one walks away from this collection having felt their authenticity.Captive narratives were a popular 19th Century genre, and Johnson gives us two of them A Man Called Horse is an eastern white man taken by a Crow tribe when he went west seeking adventure An alternate title might have been, The Ties That Bind, because Horse discovers a series of excuses and then reasons not to flee captivity This is an allegedly accurate depiction of Crow rites and rituals of the time, explored through Horse s increasing conflict between his desire to return home and his growing obligations amongst the tribe.The second captive narrative concerns the Lost Sister, a tale about a middle aged white woman being returned to her sisters after forty years living with the tribe that abducted her as a small girl Owing to the age at which she was captured and the length of time spent with them, Bessie no longer has a white identity save a vague recollection of her one oldest sister, Mary At the time of her abduction, Mary was her only sister and so her only tenuous link to her white identity Had this been placed prior to A Man Called Horse, it might easily be characterized as a Stockholm Syndrome story having already seen in that earlier story the genuine bonds that could be formed between captor and captive and how that relationship might easily transform into something far less adversarial it becomes an inverted tale of captivity Blood may be thicker than water, Johnson argues, but not thick enough.Betwixt these two tales is The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance Having seen the 1962 film starring James Stewart and John Wayne before reading this, my reading was preoccupied with noting the vast differences between story and film incarnations At its heart, this is a tale of western manhood an aimless tenderfoot Ransome Foster mans up to seek vengeance against a bullying outlaw Liberty Valance after being thrashed and left for dead Given my predilection for not spoiling stories and since this is a generic blog, rather than a scholarly reading of literature I will say nothing else about the tale at this time.The final half of this book is the novella, The Hanging Tree A 19 year old woman Elizabeth Armistead is the lone survivor of a stage coach ambush outside a gold prospecting camp She is eventually found, near death, and turned over to the care of Doc Frail Frail returned to practicing medicine after his prospecting yielded a fortune, known to everyone in the ominously named Skull Creek mining camp Where Ransome Foster s manhood was awakened by his encounter with Liberty Valance, Doc Frail discovered at the expense of his mining partner that he is, in fact, incapable of taking another life He makes public his prowess with a gun and carries himself strongly, hoping all the while he will never again be tested and shown to be the coward he is.Partly, The Hanging Tree is a further examination of western machismo it is also a discussion of the corruptive power of wealth Because of its length, these are easily the best developed characters in the collection and stand in testament to Johnson s devotion to telling stories about humanity What constitutes a man For that matter, a woman Elizabeth struggles to establish her own identity, having always deferred to her father she finds no welcome among the few other women in the camp Simply put, students of gender issues will find much to contemplate as they read of Doc and Elizabeth.Technically, there are several typographical errors in this publication many of them in The Hanging Tree The font size is rather large, and the spacing generous despite its 217 page count, I read the entire collection over about four hours As I ve previously confessed, I am hardly a great student of the American West I prefer to let that era exist in its mythological state, rather than debunk the wonder of the time with the deflating disappointment of truth In any event, I wholeheartedly recommend this collection to fans of short fiction I doubt other fans of the film version of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance will get much out of the original short story I ve not seen the film adaptations of A Man Called Horse or The Hanging Tree so I cannot comment on those Taken entirely as short stories, though, these are engaging even if they conflict with our 21st Century sensitivities.

About the Author: Dorothy M. Johnson

Dorothy Marie Johnson December 19, 1905November 11, 1984 was an American author best known for her Western fiction.

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