Tips for Teachers
We've had several requests from teachers looking for materials and have put this list together from their questions. We have tried to choose the content carefully, with as little violence as possible, and covering issues appropriate for discussion in classes.
Cap Rock Rancher - (From the short story collection "End of the Drive.") A rebellious teen-ager, Ed Tucker, and his father are nearly home from a trail drive. In the saddlebags of his father's horse is the first real money that the down-at-heel pair have made in years, most of the money, however, belongs to their neighbors. Ed and his father fight about his plans for the future and the rough characters that young Ed is hanging out with. Angry, Ed rides off believing that his father is a broken down old man who barely owns the clothes on his back and not much of an example to be giving a lot of advice. When Ed comes back he finds his father has been bucked off his horse and has a broken leg. The horse with the saddle bags and money is missing. Ed and his father track it down and discover that it has been taken by the very group of young toughs that Ed has recently made his friends. In the final resolution Ed learns a lesson about character, courage, and determination that will change his life. The story is 15pgs. and contains lessons about judging substance rather than surface; looking more closely at the lives of one's parents, no matter how unheroic they may seem; and about facing advercity rather than hiding from it.
The Daybreakers - Brothers Orrin and Tyrel Sackett travel west to make a new life for themselves and to escape the feuding and poverty of the Tennessee hill country. They join a trail drive to Kansas, start their own business in Northern New Mexico, and are eventually involved in politics. The novel is a good look at western conditions in the 1867 - 1875 time period. It is a fast read covering a lot of ground in very few pages so it is good for advanced and remedial readers alike. There are many issues for discussion: Tom Sunday, a character who makes a gradual shift from good guy to bad guy because of a minor incident over some money and his continued obcessing over it. The unclear transition of New Mexico from Mexican law to that of the U.S. and the carpetbagger types who chose to exploit the confusion. How one confronts a lack of education and what to do about it. The Daybreakers is a terrific example of the classic western epic but with a number of atypical elements.
Merrano, of the Dry Country - (From the short story collection "The Strong Shall Live.") View the lives of different groups of people as they are faced with surviving an environmental disaster. In Mirror Valley the grass no longer grows, the springs are dry, and the cattle are dying. Some think it is a drought, others realize that the problem is overgrazing. As tensions rise old alliances change and the fear in the ranchers hearts explodes into fury, fury aimed at a young Mexican rancher who may just be the only man who can save them. We can offer you the original short story but the particularly exciting materials that we have available come in the form of a fifty minute radio play. We have both our recording and scripts that the students can read from to perform their own version. We have had classes in English language and American culture in France use these materials very effectively, first reading the script as a class, discussing it, and then listening to the tape. The story explores issues of racism and it's connection to the dark side of manifest destiny, environmentalism and hypocrisy. This is sophisticated material and is, perhaps, more appropriate for students in 11th or 12th grade.
Beyond the Great Snow Mountains - (From the short story collection "Beyond the Great Snow Mountains.") A plane, escaping from the Chinise civil wars of the 1930s crashes in a remote area. Anna Doone, the daughter of a medical missionary must survive among the Ngolok tribesmen. Years pass, she has a child by a man who becomes king of the Ngolok, he dies and their son will soon have to lead his people in a desperate attempt to deal with tribal factionalism and the challenge of another Chinese Revolution. Just at this moment another plane appears and Anna must decide the fate of herself, her son, and the people who have adopted them. This short story confronts issues of survival, loyalty, and conflicting cultures. Does Anna try to escape with her teen age son, leaving the tribe in the hands of a much poorer leader? Is it right to take him to a place he knows nothing about? Does she go alone and chance never seeing him again. Or does she give up the rest or her life to the battle for survival against the harsh conditions in the icy mountains and the Red Army soldiers who are appearing in greater and greater numbers?
Conagher - A lonely widow tries to survive with her children on the plains of New Mexico. A lonely cowboy faces growing older, lack of work, and how to make a last stand for the things in which he believes. Conagher is an example of L'Amour's writing at it's best. These are simple lives made facinating by his taking no moment for granted. The woman ties notes to tumbleweeds in a vane attempt to cope with her isolation. When asked who gave him the black eye a stage employee grumbles, "Nobody gave it to me. I fought for it." There is no emphasis put on gunfighters, lawmen, or the other machinations of western adventures. Just hard scrabble realism. The book deals with women's roles, building of stage lines, and the lack of a future for a working man if he doesn't find a way to better himself.
If you have questions, ideas or responses to the materials above, please E-mail us and include your phone number and other contact information so that we can route your request to the right person for a quick response.