THE AMERICAN WEST (mostly): Fact and Fiction (mostly fiction)

"NOBODY GETS TO BE A COWBOY FOREVER." -- Chet Rollins (Jack Palance) in MONTE WALSH (NG, 1970)

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Saturday, April 16, 2016


These novels are companion pieces that are fictional accounts of Cynthia Ann Parker's captivity by Comanches on the Texas frontier. She underwent a cruel initiation and acculturation process but was eventually accepted as a member of the tribe.  She gave birth to a son, Quanah, who grew up to become a warrior respected by his tribe and feared by his enemies.

In Jones' stories Cynthia Ann's Anglo name is changed to Morfydd Parry, which the Comanches change to Chosen, and Quanah becomes Kwahadi (Antelope).

Season of Yellow Leaf begins in 1838 with the kidnapping of ten-year old Morfydd and ends in 1854 with her "re-capture" and return to a white world that she no longer understands and does not want to live in. By the 1850's, the Comanche were facing a bleak future as they fought to oppose Western expansion by whites and encroachment on their land by re-located tribes.

The Comancheria: the land of the Comanches until about 1850

The capture of Cynthia Ann was also the inspiration for Alan LeMay's novel, The Searchers (1954), which was adapted for the screen under the same title.  Many Western aficionados rank it as the greatest western ever filmed.  It was directed by John Ford and starred John Wayne and the spectacular Monument Valley vistas.

Palo Duro (Spanish for 'hard stick') Canyon located a few miles south of modern-day Amarillo, Texas is the second largest canyon in the U.S.  It served as a winter refuge by the Comanches.  The canyon teemed with game, including buffalo, until wiped out by hide hunters.

Gone the Dreams and Dancing takes place after 1870 and is narrated by Liverpool Morgan, the Black Welshman we first met in The Barefoot Brigade (1982).  He is now serving as a civilian interpreter for the military at Fort Sill in the Indian Territory.

In 1875, Morgan first sets eyes on Kwahadi, the last war chief of his Comanche band, defeated but proud, leading his people to the Reservation. Eventually, Morgan becomes Kwahadi's friend and attempts to help the chief with the difficult task of helping his people adapt to a new way of life.

The Western Writers of America awarded Gone the Dreams and Dancing a Spur Award for Best Historical Novel.

"In these works, Jones displays the sensitivity and artistry for which he has become renowned.  His appreciation for the culture and tradition of the Comanches is apparent, and he does not diminish his subjects by romanticizing them.  His balanced treatment of whites reflects that they too are caught in processes of change that they cannot control.  Jones' characters are complex and memorable.  His descriptions of western landscape reflects his artist's eye for color and form, and his careful research recreates settings that disappeared long ago.  His novels are important contributions to Western literature." -- Cheryl J. Foote, Twentieth-Century Western Writers

Cynthia Ann Parker and infant daughter soon after her "re-capture"

Quanah Parker

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