The old Wild West in L. Ron Hubbard’s Branded Outlaw
Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy writes that L. Ron Hubbard’s Branded Outlaw is a reminiscence of the old Wild West which depicts United States’s epoch when justice was decided by the barrel of a gun held by the fastest hands
You need not be an American or Mexican to know of the Wild West. You must have read about it or seen a movie inspired by it. Those of us born in the late eighties and early nineties remember that time when we plagued our mothers to get us jean jackets with hats while we went about pretending to be cow boys. I remember that one of my favorite movies then was the one titled The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and I do remember seeing some of Van Dame’s movies where he played out the roles of a cowboy. You may say violence is not good for kids but we saw all these things in movies back then sitting side by side adults who were as much engrossed as we were in the magic of the Wild West. Besides, there were also cartoon versions of cowboy heroes and gunslinger movies.
The Wild West depicts the United States in its frontier epoch when men were proud gunslingers, when justice was decided by the barrel of a gun held by the fastest hands in a shootout, the days of bandits, outlaws, large scale cattle theft and bounty hunters, the old days of a sheriff who was both the law and persecutor in the town, those were the days of the Wild West! Yes, it was characterized by roughness and lawlessness and most certainly not the kind of epoch I should wish to be born but I do admire the local cowboy folk heroes of that epoch and how their hands moved as lightening towards their guns to fire at their foes. Are you still wondering why ancient American families take pride in keeping guns? Or why the average American is fascinated with guns and loves to have one for keeps? Hahaha!
So, when I began reading L. Ron Hubbard’s Branded Outlaw and discovered it to be of the Wild West, memories of childhood engulfed me. Hubbard descriptive power is compelling and even more real than the feel that an actual movie based on the story would have given. I galloped with the hero on his horse back as he escaped from his assailants and was as much astonished as other characters in the story by the accuracy and swiftness of the protagonist with his colts–paw, paw, and pauw! (Blows smoke off) haha!
Here is L. Ron Hubbard’s advice for adventure story writers, one I think you should hear:
In writing an adventure story
a writer has to know that he is adventuring
for a lot of people who cannot.
The writer has to take them here and there
about the globe and show them
excitement and love and realism.
As long as that writer is living the part of an
adventurer when he is hammering
the keys, he is succeeding with his story. (L. Ron Hubbard’s 98)
Though these words are over a hundred years old now, their validity need not be contested. Hubbard has shown how his words can be given life in this novella. Talking of words, Hubbard’s language is superb. Although, he avoided much of the cuss words associated with American cowboys but there are lots of slangs as expected in such a story. He got me acquainted with guns and horses with the mention of various kinds of guns (such as colts, .44, winchester etc) and types of horses (buckskin for example) used by the characters in the novella. I love his manner of presenting dialogues, especially whenever there is a confrontation; let me show ya an example, my favourite:
“Thought you was up in Wyomin’ someplace havin’ a hell of a time for yourself! Bet old Tom’ll be plenty pleased to see you again. Used to stand down by the post office and read us your letters whenever you wrote. I thought–“
“My father was killed last night. The house was burned and the stock run off. I’m giving it to you straight, Randall. I’m looking for Harvey Dodge.”
“Huh? Why, man, you must be loco! Harvey Dodge came in and bought the biggest spread in the valley. He’s probably the biggest rancher in these parts now. He wouldn’t do nothin’ like that!”
“I’m still looking for Harvey Dodge.”
Tate Randall stood up and shook his head. “Sonny, I’ve burned enough powder to run a war, and I’ve shot enough lead to sink a flatboat. If I had it to do over again. I’d use my head and let the law do the findin’ and shootin’. If you go gunnin’ for Dodge without anymore evidence than you’ve got, there’s only one thing that’ll happen to you. We’ll be building a scaffold out here to string you up. Now think it over.” (7)
Much attention is paid to dialectal variation and colloquialism yet the finesse attached with poetry in speech is not missing.
In this story, you would meet Suicide Lee Weston, the fastest gunslinger in Pecos Valley. His father has just been murdered and the stock stolen. In a bid to get the man whom he believed murdered his daughter, he would kill three men, become wounded by gun shots, gallop away to save his dear life, be branded an outlaw, meet a mysterious lady (Ellen) who saves his life by nurturing him back to health and who he would fall in love with, the same lady who he would later find out is the daughter of the man he is so desperate to kill in revenge for his father’s death. Would Suicide Lee Weston then kill the father of the only woman he ever looked at twice? You should find out! I am off to read another story.
Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy holds a degree in English language and literary studies. He is a short story writer, copy editor, book reviewer, literary critic, poet, and essayist. He teaches English as a Foreign Language in Hargeisa, Somaliland.