Better Than Marvel Heroes: Cowboys and Mountain Men
It is hard to find good books for boys. The Marvel comic series is so wildly popular because every young man wants to be a hero and that is a good thing. Westerns and biographies of mountain men talk about real men during a period in American history when there was much need and opportunity for heroism.
Our family’s favorite Western author is Louis L’Amour, a very prolific writer with 126 books to his name. There was a time when all literate members of our family were devouring L’Amour novels including our six daughters. At that time, it was unwise to leave the book you were reading out in the open. Someone would surely grab it and not return it until finished. We were addicted.
Our favorite Louis L’Amour books feature the adventures of various members of the fictional Sackett family. Barnabas Sackett sails from England to America around 1600, moves inland and takes root in the Appalachians. His descendants are mostly big, very tough men with strong moral backbones. They stick together even as some among them move west. Family comes first for the Sacketts and whenever one of them is in trouble, which happens often, others come running to help. The Sacketts love justice, they are brave, honest and independent – and they are hungry for education which is hard to come by in the West.
The Sacketts will teach your son how to be a man without a magic hammer or suit. These books are clean, suspenseful and full of historical detail. L’Amour died in 1988 but his books are still immensely popular. They are easy to find at yard sales and in used book stores. I used to think that the Sacketts characters were larger than life, that Louis L’Amour exaggerated to boost the appeal of his stories. I don’t think so anymore. Why?
There are biographies and journals of historical frontiersmen containing stories stranger than fiction. Hugh Glass, Mountain Man by Robert M. McClung is an example of a real life Sackett. Badly mauled by a grizzly and left for dead near what is now the town of Lemmon, South Dakota, Hugh Glass drags himself 200miles to Fort Kiowa on the Missouri. If you happen to be travelling through South Dakota, stop here at the site of Hugh Glass’s bear attack: https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/10513 .
The Sacketts and Hugh Glass make great role models for boys. Unlike Thor and Spiderman, they are real men who can be emulated. Did I mention they are also very funny?
You will find the books mentioned here in our Young Adult book list under Westerns/Mountain Men.