I've long had an itch to re-read The Long Rifle by Stewart Edward White and report on it here in Forgotten Books. The Long Rifle was the book that introduced mountain man and trapper Andy Burnett, and was the basis for the Disney series The Saga of Andy Burnett.
Well, I still haven't returned to The Long Rifle, but Along the River Trail by Hugh Pendexter scratched that Andy Burnett itch in a big way. This one, too, is about a young man who heads west in the company of older, wiser hands, and learns the ins and outs of the trade. The difference here is that one of those wiser hands is also quite young, and such a prominent character that he's almost a co-protagonist. And that's a good thing, because he's Jim Bridger, and Bridger makes a fascinating hero.
This book, one of five volumes (so far) in Black Dog Books' Hugh Pendexter Library, was serialized in Adventure in 1920, and is collected here for the first time. Our official POV character is Ralph Lander, a St. Louis store employee of the American Fur Company who gets sacked for falling in love with (and capturing the love of) the boss's daughter. After winning a duel with a rival, he finds it wise to get out of town, and heads for the mountains with Bridger, one of the leading lights of the AFC's chief rival, The Rocky Mountain Fur Company. All sorts of wilderness adventures follow, including (but not limited to) encounters with friendly Indians (the Crow), hostile Indians (the Blackfeet), friendly mountain men and hostile mountain men, all set against the background of a battle for supremacy between the American Fur and Rocky Mountain Fur outfits.
While Ralph Lander stumbles around, making mistakes and sometimes learning from them (and giving the reader someone to identify with), Jim Bridger does the thinking and provides the heroics. They make a great pair.
Hugh Pendexter (above right) loved history and was a meticulous researcher, so I'm guessing the picture painted here is about as close to history as fiction can get. But this is fiction, and mighty entertaining reading, because Pendexter was also a master storyteller. As a bonus, the book has a fine introduction by Mr. Robert Randisi. You know you want it, and the best way to get it is direct from Black Dog Books, right HERE.
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