of Jack Schaefer’s Shane (1949). Butnthere are also many negative versionsnof the same model, overreachers ornsupermen like Guthrie’s explosivenBoone Caudill. Nature’s revengenagainst presumptions committed in violationnof her authority has, in WesternnAmerican literature, its most powerfulnrendering in Walter Van TilbergnClark’s evocative The Track of the Catn(1949).nIn this book the three Bridges brothers,nwith their elderly parents, have anranch in the Washoe Valley of Nevadanwhere, with the coming of winter, theynand their cattle are terrorized by anmysterious mountain lion which attacksnboth man and beast for the merenjoy of killing. The brothers are in nonway alike. Arthur, the eldest, dreamsnpastoral dreams of natural benevolence.nCurt, who holds Arthur in contempt,nacts out of an unmitigated willnto power and plans to use the ranch asna way to get money to go to SannFrancisco. He has no piety for thengiven order of Creation. Neither doesnhe admit to any fear of the invisible andnubiquitous “black painter” conjured upnby the old Indian, Joe Sam, a fixture onnthe ranch. In his own skill, nerve, andnintellect Curt finds security. The lionnkills the passive Arthur, and a dream ofnthe lion, the fear of the power itnrepresents, destroys the self-isolatednCurt. In hunting it alone he had refusednto recognize that, as Arthur oncentold him, “nature . . . comes back onnyou in time.” With the help of JoenSam, Harold, the youngest and mostnsensible of the clan, kills the offendingnlion and buries his brothers. The novelnends with promise of a future as Haroldnprepares to marry and acknowledgesnit was not the real “black painter”nthat he shot, that “we’ll never getnthat one/’ Harold knows that the geniusnloci, the resident spirit of his valley,ncannot be subdued. He will not driftnoff in poetic reverie like Arthur orn46/CHRONICLESnimagine like Curt that he can deal withnthe mystery of Being on his own,nabsolutely, whenever he wishes.nAn examination of radical independencenthat is altogether different fromnwhat appears in The Track of the Cat isnrendered in Edward Abbey’s ThenBrave Cowboy (1956). The book isnrightfully subtitled An Old Tale in anhiew Time. In it there is no tolerancenfor the spirit of domination that isnreshaping the West, which (in thenlanguage of Clark’s Arthur Bridges)nlives only for “burning and butcheringnand cutting down and plowing under.”nJack Burns, Abbey’s hero, is an anachronism:na loyal, stubborn, cheerfulnthrowback to a time when characternand personal rectitude were everythingnand the nearest federal marshal wasnfound a hundred miles away. JacknBurns gets into trouble trying to free andraft-resisting friend from jail. Failingnin that efFort, he escapes on his own, tonbe pursued by a posse through a wildernessnwhere he is as much at homenas he is out of place in the haunts ofnmen. Jack has no objection to privatenproperty or ranchers, to moderatenforms of social and economic order, ornindeed any real quarrel with ordinarynlaw enforcement. But he refuses to benmerely a number on one of a thousandnofficial lists. He is not judged by naturenor troubled by visions of a totemn”which is as good … as any to meannthe end of things.” Instead he isncrushed by modernity, hit by a truck onna rain-slick highway because his marenhas been frightened by the glare of thenheadlights and the roar of many engines.nThe high sheriff of BernalnCounty, New Mexico, couldn’t catchnand bend Jack Burns. Larger and morenimpersonal agencies bring him down,nthough not until Edward Abbey hasngiven us an uncomfortable reminder ofnhow much like other American placesnJack’s New Mexico has become. Butnnot entirely, not so long as any of hisnkind survive to remind us of “the lostnAmerica our forefathers knew.”nI might usefully extend this discussionnof characteristic Western writing,nespecially if I examined closely thenlyric celebration of the natural order ofnthings (or complaint at its violation)nthat is embodied in the conservationistnor naturalist writings of so many giftednWestern authors. There is Abbey’snDesert Solitaire (1968), WallacennnStegner’s Wolf Willow (1962), JosephnWood Krutch’s The Voice of the Desertn(1954), J. Frank Dobie’s ThenLonghorns (1941) and The Mustangsn(1952), Roy Bedichek’s Adventuresnwith a Texas Naturalist (1947), andnJohn Graves’ Goodbye to a Rivern(1960) and From a Limestone Ledgen(1980). I am also tempted to addncommentary on Mari Sandoz’s OldnJules (1935) or John Neihardt’s BlacknElk Speaks (1932); or to make a placenfor remarks on the significant fictionnabout the American Indian written bynhis white countrymen. But to do sonwould only blur the focus, not changenthe argument concerning WesternnAmerican literature that I have offered.nGiven the evidence gathered monumentallynin A Literary History of thenAmerican West (a volume of 1,353npages published last year by the TexasnChristian University Press), that thisnliterature already exists and has become,non its own terms, a nationalntreasure, what then is likely to be addednto this homogenous and self-containednliterary canon? To begin, future contributionsnwill not be, I believe, muchnmore urban in spirit than the worksnthat presently have a place within it.nTherefore I suspect that they will notnissue from or be concerned with Californianor the coastal West, which is,nthough closely related, another country.nMoreover, except for its unwillingnessnto treat the modern city as morenthan a necessary evil, this is not antradition of artistic alienation. Instead,nas I said earlier, it is a literature ofnmemory, one that will continue tonreact to wilderness and wild creaturesn-nearby — will thus continue, or dissolvenand disappear into postures understoodnand appreciated by the authorsnof the Columbia LiterarynHistory. But though nature in its mostndramatic mode is informative’ of Westernnliterature, though the Westernnwriter when he contemplates the landscapendoes not dream of “cultivatedngardens,” he will not under the pressurenof modern industrial civilizationnrevert to confusing the “New Eden” ofnhis most hopeful vision with the merelynprimitive. For his individualism containsnin its memory of westering ancritique of its own potential excesses.nLooking down from his post of observation,nfrom the top of the ridge wherenthe “high country” begins, the greatn