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A Story of the Old Trail to Santa Fe
by Armstrong Sperry
Dust wrapper, full-color endpapers, chapter headings and various illustrations and scenes throughout by Armstrong Sperry. It was reprinted as book #1 in the Comet Books pulp paperback series in 1948 (see below), which used his illustrations inside, but not his front cover illustration. (That illustrator is unknown.)
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Review by Ellen Lewis Buell in New York Times Book Review, 2/28/37
Dedication: For Margaret who listened so patiently
From the dustjacket:
"The grass is up! The grass is up!" The magic cry sounded and echoed throughout Independence. Wagon-trains were starting westward from this Missouri town, for grazing for the cattle on the prairies was assured. The year was 1846, and this was where the West began: raw, violent, dauntless.
America was marching westward, journeying across prairie and plain. These pioneers were the homemakers, going west with all their household possessions; taking with them plow and church and school. Builders of empire. Young faces, old faces, middle-aged, and babes -- each stamped with some imprint of this great undertaking. They were not John Smith and Tom Green and Timothy Brown -- they were America marching. Men with a continent to conquer; children with a continent for a playground. The blood-stream of America flowing westward.
Independence was a town that never slept. It swarmed with traders, emigrants, gamblers, swaggering rivermen and voyageurs from the country to the north and blue-clad dragoons from Fort Leavenworth. Indians of the friendly tribes moved silently through the streets like painted shadows. Sky pilots, as ministers were called, preached a scorching hell for the wicked and fought the gamblers for a grip on men's souls. Here were men who lived dangerously and died in violence, their scalps pouring out a red offering to a thirsty land.
In the very center of this vital, surging mass of humanity was Jonathan Starbuck, a lad of fifteen. Eagerly he listened to Pierre Leroux, the master guide, a free spirit, a hunter and a trapper. Leroux was saying, "Starbuck, get out of this trumpery town. It's no place for a strapping lad like you. Hit the trail. Once you jump off the west bank of the Missouri, you're in country fresh-hewn from the hand of God. Nothing else like it in creation. out there a man's his own master and beholden to none. A hard life? You can wager it is! The cowards never start, and the weak die along the way." And then, a few days later, Jonathan watched Black Jack Bannock's wagon-train pull out for Santa Fe with Pierre Leroux as guide. It was hard watching them go, and harder to stay behind.
Big events happened in quick succession, and young Starbuck found himself free to follow Black Jack Bannon's trail and join his long trek across the country. With Old Chief Thrower, his father's rifle, under his arm and riding Hawk Eye, he headed for all the excitement, the horrors and the dangers of crossing the great untamed plains. He was soon to hear the whirr of Comanche arrows speeding to their mark; Indian war whoops splitting the air during a Pawnee attack; the thundering stampede of buffalo, the swish of waters, the creak of wagon wheels, the shouts of men as wagon-trains forded rushing rivers. Adventure, pure adventure pulsating with the vibrant, indomitable spirit of the pioneers -- the builders of empire.
ARMSTRONG SPERRY, the author and illustrator of ALL SAIL SET -- The Romance of the Flying Cloud, and other stories of wanderlust and adventure, has a rich background for his writing. He inherited a love for far-away places; for his grandfathers were New England sea captains. Accompanied by quantities of paint, pads, and pencils he has traveled by land and sea in an effort to live actually the stories about which he is writing. WAGONS WESTWARD is his supreme achievement to date, gorgeously illustrated in his matchless style with 50 well-executed drawings.
From the back of the Comet Books edition (shown at right):
Jonathan Starbuck could hear the scout's voice ringin in his ears: "Get out of this trumpery town! Hit the trail!" In the valley the campfires blazed upward, beckoning, warning....
And when Jonathan saw Black Jack Bannock's long wagon train pull out for Santa Fe, he just had to follow.
Soon Indian war whoops split the air, and the fight was on! The long trek westward meant high adventure -- a thundering buffalo stampede, a close fight with the outfit's cook, and a chance to play an important part in the Mexican War.