Forming the West…

Every now and then you come across a piece of writing that hits you square between the eyes with its clarity and truth. Happened to me yesterday when I was rereading Craig Johnson’s excellent Longmire mystery, “The Dark Horse.” How I missed lighting on this particular passage the first time I read the book I don’t know, but this time around it stopped me dead in my tracks:

“I thought about how we tilled and cultivated the land, planted trees on it, fenced it, built houses on it, and did everything we could to hold off the eternity of distance – anything to give the landscape some sort of human scale. No matter what we did to try and form the West, however, the West inevitably formed us instead.”

Seems to me this 60-word paragraph encapsulates the theme of pretty much every Western novel ever written. And I imagine that last sentence describes perfectly the journey of every Western writer. I know it does mine, anyway.

My hat’s off to you, Craig. Thanks.


The Rio Virgin, Southern Utah – Thomas Moran (1913)

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