Down the Long Hills - Lost Treasures Edition Post Script
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Here, in its entirety and as an example, is the Louis L'Amour's Lost Treasures Bonus Material Postscript being added to "Down the Long Hills" to be released in 2017.
Postscript – Down the Long Hills
By Beau L’Amour
Though Louis dedicated this book to my sister and myself, and to our close friends Jody and Jonna Veitch, the grandchildren of Alan Ladd, I really know very little about the story behind it. I remember being quite happy that a novel had been dedicated to me. Though, as a child, I doubt I had much of an idea what that meant at the time. There are no entries in Dad’s journal about writing Down the Long Hills and the only note on the plot is this one which was shuffled at random into a loose pile of paper:
“A story about a small boy and girl lost in the prairie and finding their way out and the business about the horse. Avoiding rattler, hiding from Indians, finding food, finding a place to get up on the horse and eventually getting into a crowded western town.”
Even that brief note contains one word that sheds some light on the possibility of a different ending to the story. That word is “crowded.” I assume that indicates that Louis was considering the possibility that Hardy and Betty Sue’s adventures might have continued once they reached civilization. Certainly, a lawless town or even a big city might have been just as much of a threat to their survival as the wilderness.
What we do have a bit more information on is the sequel that Louis planned. In the earliest notes, Hardy is not mentioned as the protagonist, but then Dad seems to have realized that if he set the story a few years after Down the Long Hills, he would have a character of just the right age. By the time his last notes were written he seemed to even be considering using Borden Chantry as a minor character. That would set his final notes after either 1971, when Borden makes a momentary appearance in North to the Rails, or (much more likely) after 1977 when Borden got his own, self titled, novel.
Here is a fragment of the first chapter of the sequel:
Hardy Collins knew he should not be in the old mine. His father had warned him of the dangers, and his own common sense told him that these old tunnels, having existed years without care, would be death-traps.
This had been the first mine opened in the area, and much of the work was hastily done by men looking for an immediate pay-off. It had been Indian country then and they wanted to get some gold and get out. The timbering they had done had not been expected to last.
Some of the tunnels were cut through solid rock, but even that could be dangerous. Hardy had heard miners talk and knew the first thing a miner did on entering an old tunnel was to take a long bar and bar down any loose rocks over-head. That was done in the stopes where they worked but he supposed it had to be done in tunnels as well.
Holding his candle high he followed the tunnel. He supposed he knew most of these tunnels better than anyone. Drifts, the miners called them. He was very lonely at school and the tunnels had become a private world that drew him on and on.
That was the trouble with being a strange boy in school. The others had formed into gangs and cliques. If you were a stranger and came in late you just didn’t fit in anywhere. And he didn’t.
Alone, he started exploring the old tunnels of what had once been a booming camp. Twenty years ago this place had been one of the wildest towns in the Rockies with twenty saloons, two dozen stores, a couple of hotels and some boarding houses.
Then the mines played out, one by one, and people drifted away. Houses were boarded up, the saloons closed and then the stores. Yet the town did not quite die. Two saloons and a restaurant stayed in business and a general store. There was a blacksmith shop, livery stable, a church and the school. The man who ran the general store had a small lending library where his stock of books could be read for a penny a day.
Once more than three thousand people had lived in town, now there were less than two hundred, thirty-two of them children attending school.
The people of the town eked out a precarious existence with mining, cattle, sheep, and supplying travelers. Nearly everybody in town had a mining claim, and a few of them actually worked their claims on a day-to-day basis. Others worked them occasionally. There were three or four men who ran a few cattle on the country around, and further out in a still more rugged terrain were the sheep.
None of the claims provided more than a living, but all held a hope that someday a strike would lure the mine owners back and that the town would prosper again.
And here are another few paragraphs that fill in some more details about Hardy’s exploration of the mines:
He knew he had no right to be here. He knew old mines were death-traps with rotting timbers, cave-ins, and much loose rock overhead, but this was his secret, private world, a world he had explored painstakingly in the two years he had lived in the town.
There was no trouble about light. He had found the old miner’s lamp when first he came to town, and had cleaned it up, reamed it out, and used what carbide he needed from stores in the old shack on the side-hill near his house.
Moreover, in exploring the miles upon miles of tunnels underneath the town and the surrounding hills he had found here and there kegs of carbide abandoned when the last of the miners were paid off. However, some dated from the later periods when various optimistic men had leased portions of the mine and attempted to
More information about the plot can be gleaned from the following notes … first the earliest notes, the ones that were made prior to deciding that Hardy would be the boy in the story:
A small mining town in which the big mines have all been closed for yrs [years] a few families linger on - hoping.
Boy lives with an “Uncle” who is often away in the desert.
Town and hills around a honeycomb of mine tunnel, very dangerous.
Small school - just a dozen pupils - young, pretty teacher.
Hostler at Livery stable is also a fiddle player.
Desert Mts. (Nevada) forest miles away, sometimes go for picnics.
Boy likes a girl from best house in town. Father once a prominent mining man. All in town believe him still wealthy, but he is not. Mother sews very well but nobody knows it. She constantly works on their clothes, re-making them.
It is not only for themselves that they keep up appearances but for the town. As long as they stay the people believe the town will come back.
Boy uncovers secret, joins conspiracy to keep secret.
Hostler is former outlaw, but town does not know.
Town has haunted house.
Several mysteries about people. (every one a character)
Open with boy in old mine. He finds some rifles, oiled, clean, some gear. Somebody is hiding out there.
Town marshal an old man. Very few young men in town - mostly the old & children.
Strong atmosphere: Nevada small mining town. People. Dust - Desert Growth - old buildings. Old mines.
The next step was a refinement of some of those ideas and bringing in Hardy as a character:
Small mining town-
Hardy Collins stays with widow. An attractive widow, suspect because she is so attractive.
A new boy, he is a loner at school. Does well because he reads.
Town is dying- people stay because of Colonel- who lives in big house. Believed to be wealthy, he is, in fact, a poor man.
His grand-daughter is girl saved by Hardy.
Alone, Hardy plays in old mine tunnels – explores - 3 outlaws are camped in tunnel mouth.
Over-hears plot to rob Colonel. Goes to Marshal who doubts, kids imagination. Goes to Colonel. Tries to get message to his father. Colonel only has old -fashioned dueling pistols
Thunder River. Check E-Town - [I assume this is Elizabethtown, NM] How far is Mesa De Mayo? Check down for outlaws - Borden Chantry to Thunder if possible.
Then there were these last few notes telling us something of the plot and who Hardy’s antagonists might be:
He is frightened and worried. What are the men doing here? What is worth stealing in such a poor place? Or are they simply hiding from the law? Then he thinks of old Major Brewster, the richest man in town.
He wishes his father were here; but his father is working, miles away, on a ranch. There is no place there for a young boy, and no school, so Hardy has remained here.
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