It was early in the morning and 3-year-old Betty Sue had left camp following 7-year-old Hardy, who had gone out early to look for his stallion, Big Red, who he had failed to tie up the night before and was missing.
After they had left camp Comanches came, attacked their camp and killed Betty Sue’s mother and father as well as everyone in the camp. I was a quick raid made to take the horses and anything else of value, including food and weapons.
Hardy thought he had heard a scream and he left Betty Sue and returned to camp, but no one was left alive. The only thing he found of value were a few cans of food and he took them back to where Betty Sue was. They were alone and winter was coming soon, the only thing they could do was to try to find someone, somewhere, who could help and to try to go further West.
Big Red had come back but without a saddle all Hardy could do was lift Betty Sue to ride and they started out on the trail going West. Hardy had a knife and the few cans of food. They had nothing else but the cloths on their backs. O yes, Hardy had what he had learned in his young life from his father who was a long way from the camp and was not coming back soon. Hardy knew that eventually he would return and that he would look for them if they could survive.
Along the trail west they were followed by Indians who wanted Big Red, and savage outlaws who also wanted the very impressive horse. The weather and the wild animals were also threats.
L’Amour makes us feel we are inside the story, he makes us care that Hardy and Betty Sue survive. We are pulled into the their struggle and it is like we are on the trail moving across Wyoming towards the Wind River Range, the South Pass, Beaver Creek and the landmarks that are still there today.
“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.”