Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Day the Sun Came Out by Dorothy M. Johnson

The Day the Sun Came Out by Dorothy M. Johnson.
Short Short in Bar 4 Roundup of Best Western Stories.
Perma M3035, Copyright 1955.

I remember reading Dorothy M. Johnson's "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" after seeing the movie a dozen times. Surprisingly different than the John Ford movie, but you could see how Hollywood would of used the story as a base for the screenplay. The story has a wonderful strong, passive western ending, which I believe wasn't again achieved until Elmore Leonard's "Valdez is Coming." Dorothy M. Johnson was an extraordinary talent, who didn't write western stories-she wrote western literature.

"The Day the Sun Came Out" is equally as good. The story is told through an eleven year old boy traveling with his Pa and two younger sisters. They have left their home for a more prosperous life towards the mountains. They are with little provisions and almost out of food. Along the way they come upon Mary, a young woman who wants to travel with them. The father can't feed another mouth, but reluctantly allows Mary to go along to look after the girls. Soon they are out of food and the father heads out alone to seek provisions. Mary and the boy wait with the girls for his return. Days pass and they are starving. Mary finds a large mushroom-fries it up, eats some of it, but doesn't share with the others. The boy hates her for not sharing, even after begging for the sake of the girls. He later learns that she was waiting to see if it was poisonous, risking herself to save the others. Mary is fine in the morning and the others eat. The last sentence of the story is "My stepmother was a wonderful woman."

Wonderfully told through the eyes of the boy. An enjoyable, heartwarming western frontier story. This short story is just one of the gems in this collection from 1955.
Included are:

Thirst by John Prescott
War Party by James Warner Bellah
The Killer Came to Call by Bennett Foster
The Bretnall Feud by Steve Frazee
The Makings
by Norman A. Fox
River Crossing by Lester Dent
The Man Who Talked Too Much by Jack Schaefer
Pride by Ernest Haycox
Mountain Medicine by A. B. Guthrie Jr.
Westward the Egg by R.W. Krepps & H.L. Gold
Manuel by William Heuman


Anonymous said...

Did you read the Lester Dent?
I don't think I've ever read a western by the guy. Whole bunch of crime fighting inventors, rugged pilots, and good old Doc Savage, of course. Even a pair of shockingly good hardboiled stories for Black Mask, but no cowboys that I recall.
Does the book say where that tale first appeared?


August West said...

The Dent story was published in Collier's in 1948. I haven't read it yet, but seems to involve a Indian caught stealing and people want to see him hang. (Ox-Bow type) Another good story in the paperback is the Jack Schaefer one, about a man tracking and hunting a bear. I have always enjoyed his writings. This collection so far has be a joy and I'm glad I found it at a used book sale. So far all the stories that I read have been excellent.

Amy said...

I have found Bar 3 at our library but not Bar 4. Where can I get a copy of this?


Anonymous said...

hi i need a copy to

Anonymous said...

i need a copy