"Water? But water is not fit for men to drink. For the cattle, for birds and beast, but a man needs ale . . . or wine, if you are a Frenchman." [William answers]”
“There was much talk of sermons, also, and I gathered from this, as well as what Yance had told me, that sermons had much to do with shaping of thinking. There were a stiff-necked, proud folk, not easily persuaded to any course not dictated by conscience, yet conscience could be a poor guide if accompanied by lack of knowledge.”
"The sun gives life to all things. Without the sun this would be a dark, dead world. Perhaps," I added, "the spirit we worship is the same, and only the names are different. The message from He who rules over us all may come to each people in a different way.”
“Do not let yourself be bothered by the inconsequential. One has only so much time in this world, so devote it to the work and the people most important to you, to those you love and things that matter. One can waste half a lifetime with people one doesn't really like, or doing things when one would be better off somewhere else.”
“Not that folks disliked me or that I ever went around being mean, but folks never did get close to me and it was most likely my fault. There was always something standoffish about me. I liked folks, but I liked the wild animals, the lonely trails, and the mountains better.”
“Folks who talk about no violence are always the ones who are first to call a policeman and usually they are sure there is one handy.”
“...people have a greater tolerance for evil than for violence. If crooked gambling, thieving, and robbing are covered over, folks will tolerate it longer than outright violence, even when the violence may be cleansing.”
"Another thing Pa taught me: If you're going to fight . . . fight. Talk about it after.”
"Now I can't claim to be what you'd call a religious man, yet I've a respect for religion, and when a man lives out his life under the sun and the stars, half the time riding alone over mountains and desert, then he usually has a religion although it may not be the usual variety.”
"I leave their politics and religion be. Folks can think the way they want, act the way they please, even to acting the fool. All I ask is they don't make too much noise and don't interfere with other people.”
“The things a man will wish for are harder to leave behind than all his wants...”
“The idea of love, while always in her mind, had never become quite real to her.”
"The man went on until he saw the dark opening of a cave. He turned to it for shelter then, as men have always done. Though there are tents and wickiups, halls and palaces, in his direst need man always returns to the cave.”
“Aye, but a hand properly used can be as dangerous as a knife . . . And a man is not lynched for what he does with his hands.”
“We Sackett boys never killed anything we didn't need to eat unless it was coming at us. A mountain man tries to live with the country instead of against it.”
“...the way I figure, no man has the right to be ignorant. In a country like this, ignorance is a crime. If a man is going to vote, if he's going to take part in his country and its government, then it's up to him to understand.”
“Well, I've often been wrong, but this time I was right and they had to pay mind to me or bury me, and mine is a breed that dies hard.”
"Did the wagons stop?"
"Remember that, son. The dogs bark, but the wagons go on their way, and if you're going some place you haven't time to bother with barking dogs.”
“We mountain boys were all walkers. Mostly it was the fastest way to get ary place back in the hills, for often a boy could cross a mountain afoot where no horse could go . . .”
“No telling what those men wanted... but in these times there were white men with bloodier hands than any Indian...”
“And then there's the gun itself. No man in his right mind will play with a gun. I've seen show-offs doing fancy spins and all that. No real gun-fighter ever did. With a hair-trigger, he'd be likely to blow a hole in his belly. The gun-fighter knows enough of guns to be wary of them. He treats them with respect. A pistol was never made for anything except killing, and a gunfighter never draws a gun unless to shoot, and he shoots to kill.”
“It is easy to destroy a book, but an idea once implanted has roots no man can utterly destroy.”
“I was raised up where folks looked to the hills, only up where we came from you hadn't chance to look much higher, we were that near the top of the ridge.”
“We sprung from thin soil, and raised more kin than crops, but we were proud folk...”
“There’s a saying that when guns are outlawed, only the outlaws will have guns.”
“How much can a man endure? How long could a man continue? These things I asked myself, for I am a questioning man, yet even as I asked the answers were there before me. If he be a man indeed, he must always go on, he must always endure. Death is an end to torture, to struggle, to suffering, but it is also an end to warmth, light, the beauty of a running horse, the smell of damp leaves, of gunpowder, the walk of a woman when she knows someone watches. . . these things, too, are gone.”
“I like my fellow man, but I also realize he carried a good measure of the Old Nick in him and he can find a good excuse for almost any kind of wrongdoing or mischief.”
“A man who starts imagining that others think good because he does is simply out of his mind. I've helped bury a few who did think that way... nice, peaceful men who wanted no trouble and made none.
When feeding time comes around there's nothing a hawk likes better than a nice, fat, peaceful dove.”
“When a man lives with the wilderness he comes to an acceptance of death as a part of living, he sees the leaves fall and rot away to build the soil for other trees and plants to be born. The leaves gather strength from sun and rain, gathering the capital on which they live to return it to the soil when they die. Only for a time have they borrowed their life from the sum of things, using their small portion of sun, earth, and rain, some of the chemicals that go into their being - all to be paid back when death comes. All to be used again and again.”
“...he'd had the foresight to know that a lot of the savages wear store-bought clothes.”
“The Dutchman [Brannenburg] was hard. . . he was stone. His brain was eroded granite where the few ideas he had carved deep their ruts of opinion. There was no way for another idea to seep in, no place for imagination, no place for dreams, none for compassion or mercy or even fear.
He knew no shadings of emotion, he knew no half-rights or half-wrongs or pity or excuse, nor had he any sense of pardon. The more I thought of him the more I knew he was not evil in himself, and he would have been shocked that anybody thought of him as evil. Shocked for a moment only, then he'd have shut the idea from his mind as nonsense. For the deepest groove worn into that granite brain was the one of his own rightness.
And that scared me.”
“There is no man more dangerous than one who does not doubt his own rightness.”
“Folks who have lived the cornered sort of life most scholars, teachers, and storekeepers live seldom realize what they've missed in the way of conversation. Some of the best talk and the wisest talk I've ever heard was around campfires, in saloons, bunkhouses, and the like. The idea that all the knowledge of the world is bound up in schools and schoolteachers is a mistaken one.”
“There are folks who can't abide camp-robber jays, but I take to them. Often enough they've been my only company for days at a time, and they surely do get friendly. They'll steal your grub right from under your nose, but who I am to criticize the lifestyle of a bird? He has his ways, I have mine. Like I say, I take to them.”
“She'd never been one to think in terms of years, anyway. A person was what they were, and many a man at forty was sixty in his ways and many another was twenty and would never grow past it.”
“There are two kinds of people in the world, son, those who wish and those who will. The wishers wish to be rich, they wish to be famous, they wish to own a farm or a fine house or whatever. The ones who will, they don't wish, they start out and do it. They become what they want to or they get what they want. They will it.”
“It didn't seem fair, but then, a lot of things aren't. We take them as they come.”
“The savage is never far from the surface in any of us, but because we know he is there we fight it down.”
“Laws are made to free people, not to bind them - if they are the proper laws. They tell each of us what he may do without transgressing on the equal liberty of any other man.”
“For our age-old enemies await us always, just beyond our thin walls. Hunger, thirst, and cold lie waiting there, and forever among us are those who would loot, rape, and maim rather than behave as civilized men.
If we sit secure this hour, this day, it is because the thin walls of the law stand between us and evil. A jolt of the earth, a revolution, an invasion or even a violent upset in our own government can reduce all to chaos, leaving civilized man naked and exposed.”
“I would not have the old ways die, for all people in their own way find a path to wisdom. Each way can be a good way. Each has something to offer the world.”
“It is a living. It is enough. I am free. The nights are long and quiet, the mornings cool and bright, I live with the sun, the moon, and the stars. The air is fresh where I am, and there is no one to hurry me or to demand this or that of me.”
“I have education and once I had position. Now I am nobody, but I am happy.”
The Man from the Broken Hills
“When a man picks up a gun he picks up responsibility. He has a dangerous weapon, and he'd better have coolness and discretion...He'd better have judgment. That other man who wears a gun also has a family, a home, he has hopes, dreams, ambitions. If you're human, you must think of that. Nobody in his right mind takes a human life lightly.”
“To my way of thinking there was nothing finer than to top out on a lonely ridge and sit in my saddle with the wind bringing the smell of pines up from the valley below and the sun glinting off the snow of distant peaks. There was an urge to drink from all the hidden springs, catch fish in the lonely creeks, and leave my tracks on all that far, beautiful country.”
“Some folks want the lights of cities, the admiration of women, and the fame that comes with success. Me, I just want the trail unwinding ahead of me, the view from the top of the ridge, and the smell of a wood-smoke fire.”
“If they didn't accept him, the hell with them - he could go his own way.”
“You can make laws against weapons but they will be observed only by those who don't intend to use them anyway. The lawless can always smuggle or steal or even make a gun. By refusing to wear a gun you allow the criminal to operate with impunity.”
“The trees are aware, and the bushes. The birds and small animals are aware, and they listen, hesitant, suspecting. Awareness of danger is an element of their being. It is like their breathing, like the blood in their veins, and one who lives much with the wilderness become so aware, too... Half of woodcraft is attention, and all of survival.”
“Once he paused near a small stream to watch a dipper bob up and down on a rock. He saw a school of trout lurking in a shady place where a branch hung low on the water. No amount of seeing ever made nature old to him, and he was conscious of every movement and sound.”
“The trouble with being on the wrong side of the law was the kind of company you had to keep.”
“What we did not possess we had to make for ourselves or learn to do without, but the little I learned helped me to build a defense against the change that time would surely bring, to teach me that to live was to change, and that change was the one irrevocable law. Nothing remained the same.”
“A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner, so if one's life is cold and bare he can blame none but himself. You have a chance to select from pretty elegant furnishings.”
“Neely grumbled. 'They [Indians] are a murdering lot of savages, and no mention of them in the Bible.'
'What has that to do with it?' John Sampson asked.
'If there's no mention of them,' Neely said, 'they are animals, not men.'
'I don't recall any mention of the English, either,' I said mildly.
He gave me a mean look, then changed the subject.”
“How many time have I talked with people who have ridden the trails where I have ridden, yet had seen nothing? They passed over the land just to get over it, not to live with it and see it, feel it.
There was beauty out there...”
“There can be no living together without understanding, and understanding means compromise. Compromise is not a dirty word, it is the cornerstone of civilization, just as politics is the art of making civilization work. Men do not and cannot and hopefully will never think alike, hence each must yield a little in order to avoid war, to avoid bickering. Men and women meet together and adjust their differences, this is compromise. He who stands unyielding and immovable upon a principle is often a fool, and often bigoted, and usually left standing alone with his principle while other men adjust their differences and go on.”
“My friend, there is a Hell. It's when a man has a family to support, has his health and is ready to work, and there is no work to do. When he stands with empty hands and sees his children going hungry, his wife without the things to do with. I hope you never have to try it.”
“We are a people of the frontier, born to it, bred to it, looking always toward it. And when the frontiers of our own land are gone, when we have drawn them all into an ordered world, then we must seek other frontiers, the frontiers of the mind beyond which men have not gone, the frontiers that lie out beyond the stars, the frontiers that lie within our own selves, that hold us back from what we would do, what we would achieve.”
“I never liked the term mystic as applied to someone or a way of thought. It covers something very profound and an awful lot of nonsense passes as profound thought.”