Random House: Bringing You the Best in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Children's Books
Newletters and Alerts

Buy now from Random House

  • Hondo
  • Written by Louis L'Amour
  • Format: Paperback | ISBN: 9780553280906
  • Our Price: $5.99
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Hondo

Buy now from Random House

  • Hondo
  • Written by Louis L'Amour
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780553899245
  • Our Price: $5.99
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Hondo

Buy now from Random House

See more online stores - Hondo

Buy now from Random House

See more online stores - Hondo


    Select a Format:
  • Book
  • eBook
  • Audiobook

Written by Louis L'AmourAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Louis L'Amour


List Price: $5.99


On Sale: April 27, 2004
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-553-89924-5
Published by : Bantam Bantam Dell

Audio Editions


Published by: Random House Audio

Read by David Strathairn
On Sale: April 27, 2004
ISBN: 978-0-7393-1092-2
More Info...

Read by David Strathairn
On Sale: April 27, 2004
ISBN: 978-0-7393-1093-9
More Info...
Visit RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO to learn more about audiobooks.

Hondo Cover

Share & Shelve:

  • Add This - Hondo
  • Email this page - Hondo
  • Print this page - Hondo
Tags for this book (powered by Library Thing)
western (75) fiction (37) westerns (10) louis l'amour (5)
western (75) fiction (37) westerns (10) louis l'amour (5)


He was etched by the desert’s howling winds, a big, broad-shouldered man who knew the ways of the Apache and the ways of staying alive. She was a woman alone raising a young son on a remote Arizona ranch. And between Hondo Lane and Angie Lowe was the warrior Vittoro, whose people were preparing to rise against the white men. Now the pioneer woman, the gunman, and the Apache warrior are caught in a drama of love, war, and honor.


Chapter One

He rolled the cigarette in his lips, liking the taste of the tobacco, squinting his eyes against the sun glare. His buckskin shirt, seasoned by sun, rain, and sweat, smelled stale and old. His jeans had long since faded to a neutral color that lost itself against the desert. He was a big man, wide-shouldered, with the lean, hard-boned face of the desert rider. There was no softness in him. His toughness was ingrained and deep, without cruelty, yet quick, hard, and dangerous. Whatever wells of gentleness might lie within him were guarded and deep.

An hour passed and there was no more dust, so he knew he was in trouble. He had drawn up short of the crest where his eyes could just see over the ridge, his horse crowded against a dark clump of juniper where he was invisible to any eye not in the immediate vicinity.

The day was still and hot. Sweat trickled down his cheeks and down his body under the shirt. Dust meant a dust devil or riders . . . and this had been no dust devil.

The dust had shown itself, continued briefly, then vanished, and that meant that he also had been seen.

If they were white men fearful of attack, they were now holed up in some arroyo. If they were Apaches, they would be trying to close in.

He studied the terrain with care, a searching study that began in the far distance and worked nearer and nearer, missing no rock, no clump of brush, no upthrust ledge. He saw no further dust, heard no sound, detected no movement.

He did not move. Patience at such a time was more than a virtue, it was the price of survival. Often the first to move was the first to die.

Hondo Lane took out the makings and built another cigarette. When he struck the match he held it well back in the foliage of the juniper, keeping the flare invisible. He drew deep on the cigarette, returning his attention to the terrain.

The rough-looking mongrel dog that followed him had lowered himself into the soft earth beneath another juniper a dozen yards away. The dog was a big brute, gaunt from running.

It was hot. A few lost, cotton-ball bunches of cloud drifted in a brassy sky, leaving rare islands of shadow upon the desert’s face.

Nothing moved. It was a far, lost land, a land of beige-gray silences and distance where the eye reached out farther and farther to lose itself finally against the sky, and where the only movement was the lazy swing of a remote buzzard.

His eyes wandered along the ridge. To his right there was a shallow saddle, the logical place to cross a ridge to avoid being skylined. Logical, but obvious. It was the place an Apache would watch.

There were junipers beyond the ridge, and broken boulders upon the ridge itself. In less than a minute he could cross the ridge and be in the shelter of those junipers, and if he took his time and made no sudden moves to attract the eye, he might easily cross the ridge without being seen.

He thought none of this. Rather it was something he knew, something born of years in wild country.

Hondo Lane crossed the ridge into the junipers and hesitated briefly, studying the country. His every instinct told him those riders had been Apaches and that they were somewhere close by. Yet the dog had given no sign.

He eased his weight in the saddle and checked the eagerness of the horse, which smelled the water in the river not far ahead.

Finishing his cigarette, he pinched it out and dropped it to the sand and angled down the slope. He slid his Winchester from its scabbard and rode with it across the saddle, keeping his horse to a walk. Vittoro was off the reservation with his fighting men, and that could mean anything. Council fires burned and there was much coming and going among the lodges. Mescaleros had been hunting with the Mimbreños and the border country was alive with rumors.

Hondo Lane could smell trouble, and he knew it was coming, for others and for himself.

Ahead lay the river, and after the rains it would be running full and part of the crossing would be swimming. Lane liked no part of it. Since the rains he had crossed the trails of four bands of Apaches and they had been riding without their women and children, which meant raiding. Young bucks out to lift some hair or steal horses.

He went down the slope to the river, knowing there was no way of avoiding the crossing. He used every bit of cover and changed direction frequently, heading toward an inviting sand bar that led far out into the stream, yet when he was near it he suddenly switched direction and rode behind a clump of cottonwood and willow, going into the water in the shadow of the trees, and quietly, to make no splash.

The dog went along with him and together they crossed. As the buckskin went up the bank, Hondo heard the twang of a bowstring and felt the buckskin bunch its muscles under the impact of the arrow. As the horse started to fall, Hondo Lane rolled free.

He hit the sand on his shoulder and rolled swiftly behind a drift log. When he stopped rolling he was looking past the butt end of the log with his rifle in position. He saw a movement of brown and his finger tightened and the rifle leaped in his hands. He heard the whop of the striking bullet and saw the Apache roll over, eyes wide to the sun.

As he fired, he moved, getting into a new position in coarse grass with almost no cover. And then he waited.

Hondo dried his sweaty palms on his shirt front and blinked to keep the sweat out of his eyes. The sand was hot beneath him, the sun hot upon his back. He smelled the stale sweat of his body, the smells of tobacco, horse, and greasewood smoke that lived with him. He waited, and there was no sound.

A fly lighted on the back of his hand, he heard the sound of water running over stones. Around him were the gray bones of a long dead tree. His shoulder cramped.

There was no movement; only a small bird started to land in a clump of brush, then veered away. It was a small bunch of brush and Hondo took a chance. He fired suddenly into the brush, spacing his shots. He heard a faint, gasping cry and fired again at the same spot.

Rolling back to his former position, he waited, then looked past the butt of the log. He saw a moccasin toe dig spasmodically into the sand, then he saw it slowly relax.

Two Indians, or more? He lay still, ears alert to sound. The moccasin toe remained as it was. A tiny lizard appeared on a branch near him and stared, wide-eyed. Its tiny heart pounded, its mouth gaped wide with heat. He dried a palm, then flicked a stone into the brush twenty feet away. He heard it fall, and no sound followed.

Probably not more than two. His mouth felt dry and he dearly wanted a drink. Yet he waited, wanting to take no chance, and knowing too well the patience of the Apache.

Only after several minutes did he ease away from the log and circle to get a better look. The Apache lay still, his lower back bathed in blood that glistened redly in the hot afternoon sun.

Hondo Lane got to his feet and moved closer. The bullet had struck the Indian in the chest. It had cut through his body from the top of his chest and had come out in the small of his back, breaking his spine.

Lowering the butt of his rifle, Hondo took off his hat and mopped his brow with a handkerchief. He looked again at the sprawled brown body of the Indian, then glanced over at the other. Both are dead . . . and this was not a good place to be.

The dog stopped under a tree and lowered himself to the ground, watching him. Hondo glanced at his dead horse, then stripped it of saddle, bridle, and saddlebags. It was a load, but swinging them together, he shouldered them and started off through the trees, walking with a steady stride. The dog rose from the ground in one easy movement and started after him.

Reaching the stream at a bend, Hondo Lane walked into the water on an angle that pointed upstream. When he was knee-deep he turned and walked back downstream and stayed with the stream for half a mile, then emerged and kept to rocks along the stream for some distance farther, leaving them finally at a rock ledge. When he left the rock he was again walking upstream. He used every device to hide his trail, changing directions with the skill of an Apache, and finally he reached a ridge, which he followed, just below the crest.

The sun sank and the long shadows crept out from the hills, but Hondo Lane did not rest. He moved on, checking distance by the stars, and continuing along the ridge. When he had walked two hours into the night, he finally lowered his heavy burden to the ground and rubbed his shoulder.

He had come to a halt in a tiny circle of rocks among scattered piñons. The rocks rimmed a cup that sat down at least ten feet lower than the hills around. Unrolling his blankets beneath a tree, he made a quick supper of a piece of hardtack and jerked beef. Then he rolled in his blanket and slept.

At dawn he was awake. He did not awaken gradually, but his eyes opened quickly to consciousness and he listened, then glanced at the dog. It lay some yards away, head resting on paws. Hondo relaxed and swiftly rolled his blankets. After a quick check from the edge of the cup, studying the country, he returned and gathered dry branches from the curl-leaf, a shrub whose branches give off a hot flame and are almost smokeless.

He built a small fire under a piñon so what little smoke there was would be diffused by rising through the branches. He made coffee, ate more jerky and hardtack, then eliminated all evidence of his fire and brushed leaves and sand over the spot. Carefully he removed evidence of his resting place and tracks. Then, shouldering his saddle and saddlebags again, he left the cup and started along the ridge.

The morning air was fresh and cool. He walked with a steady stride, rarely pausing to rest. His lean, wolf-hard body, baked by too many suns and dried by winds, carried no soft flesh to melt away under the sun. At midmorning he heard birds chirping and went toward the sound. A shallow basin in the rock held water. He dropped to his belly and drank, then moved back, and the dog moved in, lapping the water gratefully, but with eyes wary.

Among the rocks near the water Hondo Lane smoked a cigarette and studied the country. There was no movement but an occasional buzzard. Once he saw a lone coyote. He drank again, then shouldered his saddle and moved on.

Once he stopped abruptly. He had found the old track of a shod horse. The track was days old, and from its appearance had been made before the rain. Little was left but the indentations. Thoughtfully he studied the terrain around him. It was an extremely unlikely place for a rider to be. No soldier would be in such a place unless scouting for a larger command.

Shouldering his burden once more, Hondo backtrailed the hoof marks, finding two more tracks, then losing them on lower ground where the rain had washed them out. Finally, making a guess, he quartered on his route and cut across the shallow valley, moving toward a place of vantage from which he could see the country.

He saw a bunch of squaw cabbage and broke off a few stalks and walked on, eating them as he went. Twice more he found isolated tracks of that same shod horse, and then suddenly the dog stiffened.

Hondo eased himself back to the ground. There was sparse grass where he lay, a few scattered chunks of rock. He lowered his saddle among the rocks and lay perfectly still. The dog, a few yards away, lay absolutely immobile. He growled, low and deep.

“Sam!” Hondo’s whisper was quick, commanding. The growl subsided.

Several minutes he lay still, and then he heard the movement. There were nine Apaches, riding in a loose bunch, heading in a direction roughly parallel to his own. He lay still, avoiding looking directly at them for fear of attracting their attention.

Nine. At this distance he wouldn’t have a chance. He might get three or four before they hit him, and then that would be all. Nor was there any shelter here. Only his absolute immobility and the neutral color of his clothing kept him from being seen.

He listened to their movement. They did not talk. He heard the rustle of the horses through the coarse growth, an occasional click of hoof on stone. And then they were gone.

He lay still for several minutes, then got up and cut across their trail, still occupied with those shod hoof tracks. They had all been made at the same time. This meant a white rider had spent some time in the area. He might still be here. One horse could mean another.

A few miles farther and suddenly the cliff broke sharply off and he was looking into a deep basin at the bottom of which lay a small ranch. It was green, lovely, and peaceful, and with a sigh he started down the slope, walking more slowly.

Below him, near the worn poles of the corral, a small boy was playing. Suddenly, attracted by some sound, he lifted his head and looked up the slope at the descending man.

“Mommy! Mommy!”

A woman came to the door of the cabin, shading her eyes against the sun. Then she walked out to the child and spoke to him, and together they watched the man on the hillside. He walked still more slowly, the fatigue of the long days and his heavy burden at last catching up with even his iron strength. She hesitated, then turned quickly and walked back to the cabin.

Hanging in a holster from a peg on the cabin wall was a huge Walker Colt. She lifted the heavy weapon from its holster and walked back to the door, placing it under a dish towel on the table where it would be immediately available.

She put her hand on the child’s head. “You let Mommy do the talking,” she said quietly. “Remember!”

“Yes, Mommy.”

Hondo reached the bottom of the slope and walked slowly toward the cabin. As he drew near his eyes went from the house to the corrals and the open-face shed that sheltered an anvil, a forge, and a few tools. His eyes went beyond, searching, still wary. Not even the presence of the woman and child in the doorway dispelled his suspicion.

“Remember,” the woman whispered, “no talking.”

Hondo lowered his saddle to the ground under the shed and took off his hat as they walked toward him. He mopped his face. “Morning, ma’am. Howdy, son.”

“Good morning. You look like you’ve had trouble.”

“Yep. I lost my horse while I was gettin’ away from Indians a few days ago. Made a dry camp above Lano last night.” He gestured toward the dog. “Then Sam here smelled Apaches, so I thought I’d make some more miles.”

“But why? We’re at peace with the Apaches. We have a treaty.”

Hondo ignored her comment, looking around at the stables. There were several horses in the corral. “Yes, ma’am, and now I’ve got to get me a new horse—borrow or buy one. I’ll pay you in United States scrip. I’m ridin’ dispatch for General Crook. My name’s Lane.”

“I’m Mrs. Lowe. Angie Lowe.”

“Can you sell or hire me a horse, Mrs. Lowe?”

“Of course. But I’ve only got the plow horses and two that are only half broken. The cowboy that was training them for me got hurt and had to go to town.”

They walked toward the corral together. Two of the horses were obviously mustangs, wild and unruly. Hondo Lane moved around, studying them carefully. Both were good animals.

“I’m sorry my husband isn’t here to help you. He’s up in the hills working some cattle. He would pick this day to be away when we have a visitor.”

“I’d enjoy meetin’ him, ma’am.” He glanced toward the boy, who was walking toward Sam. “I wouldn’t pet that dog, son. He doesn’t take to petting. And now, ma’am, if you’ll allow me, I’ll give those horses a try.”

“Of course. And I’ll get you some food. I imagine you’re hungry.”

Lane grinned. “Thank you. I could eat.”

Lane hesitated before going to the corral. There was work that needed to be done around here. The little things that are done by a man constantly living around were undone. The recent rains had run off the barn and started to run back under the foundation timbers, gouging out a hole. Another rain and that hole would be much larger. It should be filled and the water trenched away toward the arroyo.

He rolled a smoke and lighted it, then leaned on the corral bars. The two mustangs moved warily, edging away from the man smell and the strangeness. Both had good lines and showed evidences of speed and power. There was a lineback that he liked, a dusky, powerful horse, still wearing his shaggy winter coat.

Lane went through the bars and into the corral, rope in hand, cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. The horses moved away from him, circling against the far side of the small corral. He watched them moving, liking the action of the lineback, and studying the movements of both horses.

He talked quietly to the horses and dropped his cigarette into the dust. He was conscious that the boy was perched on the corral, watching with excitement. Dust arose from the corral, and he shook out a loop. The lineback dun tossed his head and rolled his eyes, moving away from the threat of the loop.

Hondo smiled, liking the horse’s spirit. He spoke softly, then moved in. When he made his throw it was quick, easy, and deft. The loop dropped surely over the bronc’s head, and the horse stopped nervously. He knew the feel of a rope, at least. That much he had learned, even if he had not learned the meaning of a saddle.

Leading him to the corral bars, Hondo talked softly to him, stroking his neck and flanks. The mustang shied nervously, then began to quiet down. Finally he nosed at Hondo curiously, but shied when Hondo reached for his nose.

Making no quick movements, Hondo walked to the bars and crawled through. When he had his saddle and bridle he walked back, dropped them near the horse, talked to him a little, and then after rubbing his hand over the dun’s back he put the saddle blanket on him. Then the saddle. The horse fought the bit a little, but accepted it finally.

Once, glancing toward the house, he saw Angie Lowe watching from the doorway.

Leaving the saddle and bridle on the horse so the animal could get used to them, Hondo left the corral. He stood beside the boy, letting his eyes trace the line of the hills. It was amazing to find this woman and her child here, in Apache country.

Suddenly curious, he walked toward the stable, then circled around the bank of the stream and back to the house. The only horse tracks entering or leaving since the rain were his own. Thoughtfully he studied the hills again, and, turning, walked back to the house.

There was a tin washbasin on a bench beside the door, a clean towel and a bar of homemade soap beside it. Removing his hat and shirt, he washed, then combed his hair. Donning the shirt again, he stepped inside.

“Smells mighty good, ma’am,” he said, glancing at the stove. “Man gets tired of his own fixin’.”

“I’m sorry my husband picked today to go hunting those lost calves. He would have enjoyed having a man to talk to. We welcome company.”

Lane pulled back a chair and sat down opposite the plate and cup. “Must be right lonely here. Specially for a woman.”

“Oh, I don’t mind. I was raised here.”

Sam came up to the door and hesitated, then came inside, moving warily. After a minute he lay down, but he kept his attention on Hondo. He seemed somehow remote and dangerous. There was nothing about the dog to inspire affection, except, perhaps, his very singleness of purpose. There was a curious affinity between man and dog. Both were untamed, both were creatures born and bred to fight, honed and tempered fine by hot winds and long desert stretches, untrusting, dangerous, yet good companions in a hard land.

“What can I feed your dog?”

“Nothin’, thanks. He makes out by himself. He can outrun any rabbit in the territory.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble at all.” She turned back to the stove and picked up a dish, looking around for scraps.

“If you don’t mind, ma’am, I’d rather you didn’t feed him.”

Curiously she looked around. The more she saw of this man, the more she was impressed by his strangeness. Yet oddly enough, she felt safer with him here. And he was unlike anyone she had ever known, even in this country of strange and dangerous men.

Even when he moved there was a quality of difference about him. Always casually, always lazily, and yet with a conservation of movement and a watchfulness that belied his easy manner. She had the feeling that he was a man that lived in continual expectation of trouble, never reaching for it, yet always and forever prepared. Her eyes dropped to the worn holster and the polished butt of the Colt. Both had seen service, and the service of wear and use, not merely of years.

“Oh, I think I understand. You don’t want him to get in the habit of taking food from anyone but you. Well, I’ll just fix it and you can hand it to him.”

“No, ma’am. I don’t feed him either.”

When her eyes showed their doubt, he said, “Sam’s independent. He doesn’t need anybody. I want him to stay that way. It’s a good way.”

He helped himself to another piece of meat, to more potatoes and gravy.

“But everyone needs someone.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Hondo continued eating. “Too bad, isn’t it?”

She moved back to the stove and added a stick of wood. She was puzzled by him, yet there was a curious attraction, too. Was it simply that he was a man? That the woman in her needed his presence here? That the place had been needing a man too long?

She stirred up the fire, turned over a charred stick, and moved back to the table. He ate slowly and quietly, not talking, yet without the heedlessness of manner of so many Western men, accustomed as they were to living in camps and bunkhouses and away from the nearness of women.

His boots were worn and scuffed. And there was a place on his left thigh where the jeans had been polished by the chafing of some object. A place that might have been made by a holster. Only this man wore his gun on his right side. Had he, then, worn two guns? It was unlikely. Not many men did.

“You’re a good cook, ma’am.” Hondo pushed back from the table and got to his feet.

“Thank you.” She was pleased, and showed it. She smoothed her one good apron with her hands.

“A woman should be a good cook.”

He walked to the door and hesitated there, looking out over the yard, then at the trees, the arroyo, and finally the hills. As he did this he stood just within the door, partly concealed from the outside by the doorjamb. Then he put on his hat, and turning he said, “I’m a good cook myself.”

From the Hardcover edition.
Louis L'Amour

About Louis L'Amour

Louis L'Amour - Hondo
Our foremost storyteller of the American West, Louis L’Amour has thrilled a nation by chronicling the adventures of the brave men and women who settled the frontier. There are more than 300 million copies of his books in print around the world.


"L'Amour is popular for all the right reasons. His books embody heroic virtues that seem to matter now more than ever...L'Amour falls into the grand tradition of Jack London and Robert Louis Stevenson."—Wall Street Journal

"[Louis L'Amour] made the modern Western a national pastime."—Smithsonian Magazine

From the Hardcover edition.
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide


“I think of myself in the oral tradition—as a troubadour, a village tale-teller,
the man in the shadows of the campfire. That’s the way I’d like to be remembered—
as a storyteller. A good storyteller.”

It is doubtful that any author could be as at home in the world re-created in his novels as Louis Dearborn L’Amour. Not only could he physically fill the boots of the rugged characters he wrote about, but he literally “walked the land my characters walk.” His personal experiences as well as his lifelong devotion to historical research combined to give him the unique knowledge and understanding of people, events, and the challenge of the American frontier that became the hallmarks of his popularity.

Of French-Irish descent, L’Amour could trace his own family in North America back to the early 1600s and follow their steady progression westward, “always on the frontier.” As a boy growing up in Jamestown, North Dakota, he absorbed all he could about his family’s frontier heritage, including the story of his great-grandfather, who was scalped by Sioux warriors.

Spurred by an eager curiosity and desire to broaden his horizons, L’Amour left home at the age of fifteen and enjoyed a wide variety of jobs, including seaman, lumberjack, elephant handler, skinner of dead cattle, and miner, and was an officer in the transportation corps during World War II. During his “yondering” days he also circled the world on a freighter, sailed a dhow on the Red Sea, was shipwrecked in the West Indies and stranded in the Mojave Desert. He won fifty-one of fifty-nine fights as a professional boxer and worked as a journalist and lecturer. He was a voracious reader and collector of rare books. His personal library contained seventeen thousand volumes.

L’Amour “wanted to write almost from the time I could talk.” After developing a widespread following for his many frontier and adventure stories written for fiction magazines, L’Amour published his first full-length novel, Hondo, in the United States in 1953. Every one of his more than 120 books is in print; there are more than 270 million copies of his books in print worldwide, making him one of the best-selling authors in modern literary history. His books have been translated into twenty languages, and more than forty-five of his novels and stories have been made into feature films and television movies.

His hardcover best sellers include The Lonesome Gods, The Walking Drum (his twelfth-century historical novel), Jubal Sackett, Last of the Breed, and The Haunted Mesa. His memoir, Education of a Wandering Man, was a leading best seller in 1989. Audio dramatizations and adaptations of many L’Amour stories are available on cassette tapes from Bantam Audio Publishing.

The recipient of many great honors and awards, in 1983 L’Amour became the first novelist ever to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress in honor of his life’s work. In 1984 he was also awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Reagan.

Louis L’Amour died on June 10, 1988. His wife, Kathy, and their two children, Beau and Angelique, carry the L’Amour publishing tradition forward.

For more biographical information about Louis L’Amour: www.louislamour.com.



(1) Love for, and stewardship of, the land
(2) Chivalry, honor, loyalty

Louis L’Amour’s many novels very often develop a theme of love for, and stewardship of, the land. Since the West, harsh in climate and topography as it may be, has proven to be very fragile under the pressures of overgrazing, overcultivation of arid land, and other environmental hazards, this theme is especially relevant today. L’Amour often championed the conservation of natural resources through responsible land management, as he does in Hondo and other novels. He often compares the rancher with foresight and vision with the rancher who tries to make a quick profit from the land. Water conservation, proper planting, and proper grazing techniques make the difference. L’Amour’s books are filled with beautiful descriptions of the West—evidence of his own love for Western lands.

The Western hero is often a parallel to the knight in shining armor, and Hondo is no different in his code of chivalry. Hondo will risk his own life to protect the weak and innocent, whether in the case of Angie and Johnny left on the ranch or Peter Summervel about to be cheated by two cardsharps. Hondo is honor bound to do the right thing in all situations, and his conscience is undeniable. His loyalty to those he is tied to knows no bounds. This honor code is applied to all men, including Phalinger and Lowe, who die for violating it, and the various military and Apache commanders and chiefs who earn the respect of others by following it.

Historical Background

In the first half of the nineteenth century the various tribes of the Apache nation and the early citizen/settlers of the United States territory of Arizona enjoyed an uneasy coexistence based on a common enemy, the Mexican government. When gold was discovered in California in 1848, however, the flood of people to the West was on, and an irreversible process began. Indigenous peoples were forced off their land by whatever means necessary (murder, trickery, or treaty)—for mineral rights, for ranching and farming access, or any other form of profit the land had to offer. For twenty-three years the American Southwest suffered through a cycle of peace and war in which clashes between white men and native peoples resulted in violence, violence resulted in government intervention through military campaigns, military campaigns resulted in treaties, treaties resulted in broken promises, and broken promises resulted in renewed violence.

During this time, the various bands and tribes of the Apache nation, including the major groups of the Chiricahua, the Mescalero, the Mimbres (L’Amour refers to them as Mimbreños), Tonto, White Mountain, San Carlos, (tribal classifications often originating from the Spanish colonists or the name of the reservation to which they were eventually restricted), and others gave rise to a series of effective guerrilla war generals who would eventually be acknowledged for their military genius and leadership skills. The most well-known of these were Mangas Coloradas, Cochise, Victorio, and Geronimo. These names were most often designations given them by European colonists who found their actual Apache names unfamiliar if not unpronounceable; Mangas Coloradas, for example was a nickname given in Spanish for the warrior’s red sleeves.

Warfare between the various Apache tribes of the southwestern United States and the U.S. government probably began in earnest following the Civil War, when U.S. troops returned to Arizona to a series of camps or forts meant to be points of origin for military operations to control the various nations as well as provide sanctuary to settlers when needed. The U.S. Army counts as many as fifty, but the more well-known include Apache, Bowie, McDowell, and Verde (U.S. Army). Camp Huachuca, the military camp depicted in Hondo, was established in 1877 in the Huachuca Mountains, to “offer protection to settlers and travel routes in southeastern Arizona while simultaneously blocking the traditional Apache escape routes through the San Pedro and Santa Cruz valleys into sanctuary in Mexico” (U.S. Army). In 1882, the installation’s name was elevated to Fort Huachuca, and in 1886 General Nelson A. Miles made it the headquarters for his campaign to capture or kill Geronimo.

The Apache uprisings were doomed to eventual failure, if nothing else simply due to the imposing numbers of white immigrants to the West. Mangas Coloradas was killed in 1863, and his nephew, Cochise, died on the Chiricahua Reservation in 1874. In 1874, four thousand Apaches were forced onto the San Carlos reservation, an inhospitable piece of the territory, where their mistreatment caused many to revolt and leave the reservation, some even rejoining a war effort against the white man, Geronimo among them. In 1880, Victorio was killed with a band of two hundred men, women, and children by Mexican forces in Chihuahua, Mexico.

Geronimo, although never actually captured, surrendered and fled the reservation twice before surrendering a final time in 1884. He was promised that after a short stay in Florida he would be allowed to return to Arizona. This promise was never kept, and Geronimo died in Oklahoma in 1909.

Timeline of the Apache Wars

--Mexican-American War begins

1847--United States defeats Mexican Army at Mexico City

1848--Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends the Mexican-American War, adding what would become the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah

1850--United States takes control of lands that would become Arizona and New Mexico

1853--Gadsen Purchase finalizes Mexican-American border location by adding parts of present-day Arizona and New Mexico to American holdings

1861--Cochise arrested and falsely charged with cattle rustling and kidnapping

1862--Battle of Apache Pass

1863--Mangas Coloradas captured and killed trying to escape (allegedly) from Fort McLane, New Mexico

1871--General George Crook assumes command of military forces in Arizona

1871--Camp Grant Massacre: 108 peaceful Arivapai Apache slaughtered

1871--Cochise surrenders

1872--Cochise escapes

1872--Chiricahua Reservation established

1872--Cochise surrenders

1874--Cochise dies on Chiricahua Reservation

1874--4,000 Apache forced onto San Carlos Reservation

1886--Geronimo’s final surrender and incarceration in a Florida prison

Late 1800s/Early 1900s--Geronimo relocated to reservation near Fort Sill, Oklahoma

1909--Geronimo’s death near Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Historical Accuracy of Hondo Lane’s Character

The character of Hondo Lane may be fictitious, but it is not unlikely that men very much like L’Amour’s protagonist existed in this time and place. The most famous of the Arizona military commanders and the figure always on the periphery of Hondo, for whom the protagonist is “riding dispatch,” was General George Crook, who assumed command of the American military in the territory of Arizona in 1871. General Crook recognized the value of men hardened by the West and wise in the culture of its peoples, and his campaign against the Apache may have succeeded in part because of his use of Apache scouts and scouts of mixed Apache blood, as many as one hundred at a time. Crook respected the Apache and was respected by them as well for his honesty and fairness. He led by example, not unlike an Apache war chief, and believed that defeated Native American peoples should be treated with dignity. Unlike many Westerners and government officials, his goal was not to rid the West of its native peoples but, rather, to create a lasting peace so that people of all nations could coexist.

Crook was known to take matters into his own hands when treaty promises were not kept. He attempted to help the newly confined Apache tribes set up irrigation systems and tribal police forces rather than wait out the slow-moving machinery of federal bureaucracy or trust in the integrity of government agencies. He attempted but failed in getting schools started on the newly formed reservation and was opposed to sending Native American youth to boarding schools in the East.

The general was relentless and unswerving when military action was necessary, however, and he explained to all Native American nations from Canada to Mexico that once trouble started, he would not stop to consider who started the problem but would counter with all possible force and continue no matter how long it took. On the other hand, and much to the dissatisfaction of President Grant and many Westerners who coveted Apache lands, his first choice was always to negotiate the peace rather than initiate war. He also recognized that there were good and bad men among both the Apache and the white people.

Hondo Lane is very much the product of that time and place. His physical, spiritual, and psychological character is a distillation of its essence. He understands two cultures, respects what is good, and recognizes what is bad in both. He is fair but will act with unswerving determination and violence when necessary. He is above all honorable and true to a code of ethics that crosses both cultures.

Louis L’Amour’s Use of Names and Places

Many of the names Louis L’Amour uses in Hondo are either historically accurate, mildly altered versions of an actual figure, or, possibly, meant to resemble the names of actual historical figures. Civil War references are accurate, including various battles and battlefields such as Bull Run and Shiloh, as are various figures such as Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the famed Tennessee cavalry tactician whose guerrilla war strategies enabled Confederate cavalrymen to defeat much larger groups of Northern cavalry. L’Amour’s descriptions of General George Crook and his military campaigns in Arizona are also accurate. L’Amour’s Mangus Colorado is obviously an Anglicized version of Mangas Coloradas, while the Apache chief Vittoro who adopts Johnny Lowe as an honorary Apache is nearly identical in name to the real war chief Victorio.

Lieutenant Creyton Davis and his scout Pete Britton seem to have been inspired by the historical figure Lieutenant Britton Davis. Fort Huachuca is still an important military base today. Although the valley and canyon names are fictitious, the basic setting of Southeast Arizona is appropriate, and L’Amour’s descriptions of the beauty of the desert and mountains of Southeast Arizona are lovingly accurate.


Plot Summary and Discussion Questions by Chapter

As the author begins, he characterizes his protagonists for the reader by using opposites or complements:

-A man whose loneliness is cloaked in independence, whose harshness and violence are offset by kindness and justice

-A woman who has a home, no matter how meager or lonely, for whom the amenities of civilization are not available but for whom the beauty of the West is always at hand, who fears that life could end for her and her son at any moment but who has a strong will to endure

-The Apache, Cheyenne, and Nez Perce who kill their enemies without hesitation but respect and admire their courage and strength
-A boy who has no father to show him the way and therefore represents the uncertain future of the West

1. The author says he need not “go to Thermopylae or the Plains of Marathon for heroism.” (vi) What happened in those places? What is he saying about the American frontier?
2. Who were Demosthenes and Cicero? How does he compare Chief Joseph to those figures from history?

Chapter 1

The author describes his protagonist, Hondo Lane, to the reader physically but, more important, psychologically. Hondo is a big, rough, and imposing figure. He is schooled in survival by life in a harsh land. His understanding of his physical environment is deep, as is his knowledge of how to survive. He knows by instinct and by the slight dust cloud in the air that other people are in the area, and his life may very well be at risk. Mescalero and Mimbreños Apaches are on the warpath. He takes great precautions to remain unseen as he crosses the river. He is attacked by two Apaches, one of whom kills Hondo’s horse. He kills the two of them but is now left horseless and many miles from his destination. He picks up his saddle, and he and his mongrel dog, Sam, quickly strike out, attempting to leave as little of a trail as possible. They pass other Apaches unseen.

To his surprise, Hondo comes upon a ranch inhabited by a woman, Angie Lowe, and her six-year-old son, Johnny. Although Angie says her husband is just up in the timber, working their cattle, Hondo can tell by the state of disrepair that a man has not been working this ranch in many months.

Angie is slightly confused by Hondo’s abrupt and direct ways. He seems uncivilized. He does not feed his dog, nor does he allow anyone else to feed it or pet it, preferring that Sam remain independent of human care. In spite of her wariness, Angie finds that she is drawn to Hondo.

1. What psychological traits does Hondo Lane possess?
2. What contradictions exist between Angie Lowe’s claims and the evidence about the ranch that Hondo sees?
3. How is Hondo’s treatment of Sam unorthodox?

Chapter 2

The Lowes have some horses, including some mustangs (wild horses), one of which Hondo arranges to hire from Angie. He likes horses with spirit, claiming they will be the most reliable “when the going’s tough.” (14) Hondo performs a number of chores, each one providing evidence that no man has been on the premises in a long time. Angie explains that she and her husband grew up on this ranch and that he was an orphan taken in by her father. Johnny gets snapped at when he tries to pet Sam.

Hondo tames, rather than breaks, the wild horse he likes most, and Angie admires his skill. Again, Angie finds that Hondo has an emotional impact on her. Hondo confronts her on the truth about her husband. Angie refuses to believe that they are unsafe there even though Hondo explains that the Apache war chief Vittoro is off the reservation and people have been killed. She trusts in the relationship her father set up with the Apache. Hondo claims he has trained Sam to smell Indians and reveals that he is part Indian himself.

1. What is Hondo’s philosophy about horses?
2. What is Angie’s history there on the ranch?

Chapter 3

Hondo does more chores and Angie insists that he sleep inside in the comfort of the cabin. After he falls asleep, Angie sees his first and last name on a brass plate on his saddle, HONDO LANE. Knowing that the “gunman” Hondo Lane shot three men dead last year, she draws her gun on him and pulls the trigger by mistake, only to find that she has fired on an empty chamber. Hondo then coaches her to keep a cartridge in all six chambers in the future so that she can shoot someone when she needs to. He goes back to sleep.

Angie thinks about what kind of man Hondo is and remembers hearing that General Crook has hired him to ride dispatch. She knows that Crook values and recruits just this kind of man.

The next day Hondo shows them how to find food in the desert as he learned from the Apache. He tells Angie about his Mescalero wife of five years, who died. Hondo says that Angie reminds him of her, although it is hard for Angie to get past anything beyond physical resemblance, which is not what Hondo means.

Before he leaves, and without warning or ceremony, Hondo kisses Angie on the lips. She is surprised but thinks to herself that it feels natural. Hondo rides away.

1. What is ironic about Angie’s near murder of Hondo?
2. What more does she learn about him?
3. Why does Hondo think he kissed Angie?

Chapter 4

L’Amour opens this chapter with a philosophical observation about death, a foreshadowing of what will soon happen to Company C under the command of Lieutenant Creyton Davis. Davis has experience in both the Civil War and the Indian Wars of the West. Cotton Lyndon, a white-haired scout, returns to the company to report that Apaches are in the area. Pete Britton, another scout, reports in to tell them about the massacre of a ranch family, the McLaughlins.

The next day Company C arrives at the McLaughlin ranch to survey the scene for clues of the Apache numbers and to identify and bury the dead. The massacre was a raiding party under the indirect supervision of the war chief Vittoro, and the lieutenant knows that riding in pursuit of him would be riding into an ambush. Davis makes plans to pull Vittoro into an ambush of his own. After riding partway back to Fort Huachuca, Company C sets a trap for Vittoro’s band. Seventeen or more Apaches are killed, but scout Pete Britton rides in to tell them that despite the success of their trap, they are about to be surrounded by hundreds of Apache tribes coming from other directions, including Mescaleros and Mimbreños. They dig in for the last battle of their lives.

1. Are the fights between the cavalry and the Apaches just about numbers and ferocity? What else comes into play?
2. Are all Apaches from the same tribe and/or band? What are some of the various groups within the larger category of Apache?

Chapter 5

Hondo comes upon the site of Company C’s last stand and reconstructs what took place based on the physical evidence. Some bodies have been mutilated but not those of soldiers who were thought to have fought bravely. Lieutenant Davis appears to have been among the last to die, and Pete Britton appears to have outlasted his companions by an hour. Out of respect, the Apaches have left his weapons at his side.

A storm comes up, and Hondo’s new horse saves him from a flash flood hurtling down an arroyo. Hondo keeps thinking about Angie and about Johnny’s lack of a father figure. He finds an old dugout cabin and spends the night. As Fort Huachuca comes into view, Hondo finds that he is still thinking of Angie and Johnny and the ranch.

1. What conclusions does Hondo come to about what took place during Company C’s last battle?
2. What characteristics does Hondo value in his new horse, the lineback?
3. To what do Hondo’s thoughts keep returning?

Chapter 6

Angie and Johnny experience the same rainstorm Hondo does. Angie keeps thinking about Hondo and instinctively knows that as hard as he seems on the outside, he is tough only as a result of his environment—not cruel. She cares about him and wonders if he is surviving.

Angie remembers something her father told her about the land: “We do not own the land, Angie. We hold it in trust for tomorrow.” (63) Angie values the land and understands the concept of stewardship of the environment (a common theme in L’Amour’s work). She thinks about the fact that her husband has abandoned her and forsaken their marital vows. She does not love him or feel a commitment to him.

Chief Vittoro and members of his band visit the ranch. Vittoro is striking in appearance and betrays no emotion. He has come apparently to see Angie and Johnny dead. Angie does not back down from him, and when Silva, a cruel member of Vittoro’s group, assaults Angie with a knife, Johnny fires a pistol at him, creasing his scalp and knocking him unconscious. Vittoro is moved by the little boy’s bravery and makes him a blood brother: “I name him Small Warrior, of the Moon Dog Lodge of the Chiricahua Apache.” (67) As the mother of a Chiricahua warrior, Angie may live on the ranch in absolute safety, although Silva, upon gaining consciousness, makes it obvious that he will look for ways to circumvent Vittoro’s decree.

1. What philosophy about the land does the author illustrate through Angie’s memory of her father?
2. Does Angie still consider herself married?
3. What values do the Apache hold that are evidenced by Johnny’s interaction with Silva and Vittoro?

Chapter 7

When Hondo arrives back at the fort, he is first greeted by two men, Dick and Buffalo Baker, who are Western roughnecks like himself. They have been entertaining themselves by betting on whether or not Hondo will make it back alive. In the U.S. Cavalry headquarters, an irritating man with the look of a saloon gambler and swindler is demanding to see Major Sherry, the ranking officer of the fort. He is regarded as a nuisance by the sergeant outside the major’s office but eventually gets an audience with Major Sherry to complain that he has cattle in the north that the army should be protecting. The man turns out to be Ed Lowe, Angie’s absent husband. He says nothing to the officer about a wife and child on a ranch in Apache country, and in fact, no one in town knows that he has a wife and child, because he has abandoned them and is keeping them a secret.

When Hondo shows up with news of Company C’s devastation, he is just in time to see Lowe dismissed from the major’s office. When Ed Lowe threatens to take his anger out on Sam, Hondo’s dog, Hondo backs him down, but Lowe seems to be a man who harbors grudges and exacts revenge in cowardly ways.

Later, Hondo and Buffalo Baker discuss the demise of Pete Britton, a mutual friend. The chapter ends with Hondo thinking about Angie and the idea that a “man needed somebody to think about.” (75)

1. How does L’Amour characterize Ed Lowe? What kind of man is Lowe?
2. Why do you think Ed Lowe backed down in the face of a calm warning from Hondo after his attempt to harm Sam?
3. Does the author want the reader to think Lowe will forgive Hondo and forget the incident?

Chapter 8

After a nap, Hondo walks through the night to the sutler’s store, which contains a makeshift bar. The piano player is a cowboy, a fact which the author points out as evidence that in the “melting pot of the West there was no estimating the hidden talents of a drifting man.” (76) People who know Hondo or know his reputation treat him with respect, including the bartender, who gives him an unsolicited free drink from a special bottle. When Hondo sees a teenage boy, Pete Summervel, drinking and playing poker with a known card cheat, he invites him away from the poker game to talk. Ed Lowe is one of the cardplayers, and he starts a fistfight with Hondo, then draws his gun, seeing he can’t win. Hondo kicks the gun away, pummels Lowe, and throws him out in the street. Lowe swears revenge, even murder. He is advised by those in the know to let the matter drop.

Afterward, Hondo learns that the man whom he has crossed twice is Ed Lowe, Angie’s estranged husband. He questions what kind of man would be complaining to the army about his cattle without a word spoken about the safety of his wife and child.

Company F rides out at daylight along with a large company of scouts composed of men of many nationalities, including Apache, Yaqui, Opata, Mexicans, and Americans. The whole group is actually under orders to do nothing more than bury Company C and return, forsaking any fighting unless first attacked.

Settlers arrive at the safety of the camp at regular intervals, but Angie and Johnny are never among them. Hondo wants to go and rescue them, but General Crook has sent Major Sherry strict orders that no one is to enter that country. After a discussion of where and why Hondo wants to enter Vittoro’s country, Major Sherry gives Hondo covert permission to go and attempt to bring back information about Vittoro.

1. What is Hondo’s first response to disagreements with other men? Violence? Or something else?
2. Why did Hondo hit Ed Lowe first? Was this serious or humorous? How can you tell?
3. What evidence does the author give that suggests that Hondo looks out for the best interests of friends and people he thinks are being taken advantage of?
4. What point does the author seem to be making about the cavalry’s use of scouts?
5. Discuss the feelings Hondo experiences about saving Angie and Johnny.

Chapter 9

Vittoro takes an active interest in Johnny’s upbringing. He may appear at any moment to check on him or to give him some kind of lesson in riding or hunting or manhood. Vittoro gives Johnny a beaded headband that signifies he is a member of the Moon Dog Lodge. Vittoro insists that Johnny needs a father, that Johnny’s real father must be dead and that Angie must replace him with another man. Vittoro means an Apache, but Angie resists the idea.

Angie meditates on what it means to be married. She does not seem to think that her current situation constitutes a marriage. She remembers more of her father’s wisdom: “To each of us is given a life. To live with honor and to pass on having left our mark.” (86) Honor is obviously important to Angie. She also thinks about her role as a woman, which includes protecting her home even if it means facing down a dangerous Apache chief. Angie has high standards for being a mother and taking care of her son. She also realizes that Johnny does need a man to teach him things Angie cannot. She cannot help but think of Hondo Lane.

Silva rides by the cabin and stops to make threatening remarks in Apache. Angie does not know what he is saying, but he holds up a red-haired scalp and looks back and forth from Angie to Johnny in a menacing way.

1. What goals does Vittoro have for Johnny?
2. How does Angie enter into his plan?
3. Will Vittoro respect Angie’s wishes? Why or why not?
4. What prevents Silva from exacting revenge on the six-year-old boy?

Chapter 10

As Hondo is preparing to leave, Ed Lowe sees the brand of his horse on the wild pony Hondo hired from Angie. He complains to Sergeant Young that the horse is stolen. Hondo says it is indeed Ed’s horse, but he’s taking it back to where he got it. The sergeant refuses to apprehend or impede Hondo in any way despite Lowe’s whining.

Later, Sergeant Young reports to Sergeant Major O’Bierne that he believes Ed Lowe and the card cheat Phalinger are going to follow Hondo Lane out of town with criminal intentions. O’Bierne assures Young that either the Apaches or Hondo Lane will kill them if they do.

As Hondo heads back to the ranch, he thinks about the Apache culture. He knows that Apaches are cruel to their enemies but will not harm children. He knows that the Apaches survived on this cruel landscape for centuries with no more weapons than bows and arrows and no more transportation than their own feet. He is very careful to conceal his progress, but Hondo does not know about Lowe and Phalinger following him. He does, however, suspect that someone is behind him, because of the dust in the air. He continues to watch Sam for signs of danger.

Meanwhile, Lowe and Phalinger have the advantage of knowing where Hondo is headed. Even so, Phalinger instinctively knows this is a fatal mistake but he cannot convince Lowe to let wisdom and survival overrule his need for revenge. Lowe entices Phalinger with the cash Hondo must be carrying, but eventually Phalinger says he will continue only one more day.

Lowe thinks about how much he hated life on the remote and secluded ranch. He thinks he will hire men to work his cattle and property after the Apaches have been subdued by the army. He remembers Angie’s disapproval of his vices. They find Hondo’s camp and plan to kill him at first light.

1. What does the author make clear about Apache culture and about their history in the Southwest?
2. What enables Lowe to manipulate Phalinger?
3. What prediction would you make about the likelihood of a successful assassination on the part of the two outlaws?

Chapter 11

As Angie goes about the work of the ranch, she continues to believe that Hondo Lane will return. She can also tell by the evidence of Apache warriors riding past the ranch with scalps and army uniform jackets that the war has been going badly for the cavalry. Vittoro brings all the eligible men from the Moon Dog Lodge of the Mescalero to the ranch for the “squaw-seeking ceremony.” (97) He instructs Angie to pick one as they demonstrate for her their skills at horsemanship and Vittoro tells her a little of the wealth and character of each man. The author describes the potential grooms as “magnificent physical specimens . . . dressed in their fanciest regalia.” (98)

When Angie refuses with the explanation that her religion will not permit her to marry another man while her own husband is quite possibly alive, Vittoro says that he will give her until the season of the planting rain, but if no husband has shown by then, she will have to take an Apache husband.

Angie starts planning to escape as soon as the rains that will hide their tracks come. She begins putting two horses out to graze in various places away from the corral so that Apache warriors watching the ranch do not assume they have fled when two horses are missing from the corral. Her father left a handmade map that will prove a valuable tool when they leave. Silva makes another demeaning visit, suggesting she may be his squaw one day. When Angie insults him, another warrior, Emiliano, backs him down for the time being. Angie expresses her gratitude after Emiliano prevents Silva from harming her.

1. At this point in the story, who appears to be winning the so-called Apache Wars?
2. What is the difference between Emiliano and Silva?
3. If Angie stays until the rains come, what will Vittoro force her to do? Why?

Chapter 12

As they wait for daylight to ambush Hondo, Phalinger again concludes that their plot is a mistake. He thinks about Ed Lowe’s lack of character and how Ed’s patterns in life will always repeat themselves. Greed, hatred, revenge, envy, would be Ed’s motivation in everything he did.

Meanwhile Hondo is lying in his camp and thinking of Angie.

Three miles away, three Mescalero Apaches are discovering the white men’s tracks and making their own plans for the morning.

Even before the sun is up, Hondo is awake, and Sam signals him that there are Apache warriors somewhere nearby. He does not know about the two white men, but he is already out of sight when they arrive. Lowe and Phalinger plan to ride to the edge of the small canyon with some distance separating them so that Hondo must choose one target. When they show themselves, however, he is not to be seen. Instead, the trailing Apaches ambush the two of them as they come out in the open, and before either of the two realizes it, they have been shot. Hondo, in turn, fires on the warriors, killing two.

Miraculously, Ed Lowe has been saved from death by the metal frame of a picture (tintype) of his son, Johnny, which deflected the bullet. He is injured but not fatally so. Lowe realizes that Hondo, the man he came to kill, is nevertheless giving him aid. He also realizes that Hondo’s horse is the only transportation out of danger, so he attempts to shoot his rescuer. A quick warning from Sam, and Hondo whirls around to fire upon his would-be assassin. He has now killed the husband and father of the woman and child he has come to save.

1. What important realizations about life does Phalinger make that are too late to act on?
2. Discuss some of the ironies in this chapter, wherein many are killed but not according to plan.
3. What significance may the death of Ed Lowe have for Hondo Lane?

Chapter 13

As Hondo travels closer to the ranch, he is intercepted by Apaches, including Silva. Although he seems to be successfully escaping one group, another soon cuts him off. His horse falls, and he is captured without even being able to draw his gun. Hondo warns Sam to hide in the brush, and the Apaches discover that Hondo speaks their language. Familiar with their ways, Hondo foresees Silva’s intention to torture him and attempts to provoke Silva into giving him a quick death. The other warriors are entertained by Hondo’s insults, but Silva is only more motivated to keep him alive in order to kill him slowly and painfully.

Hondo realizes that there is little chance of escape, and he resolves to die with honor. He will show no fear and express no pain. He rides into the Apache camp knowing there may be some who recognize him from his time among the Apache, but he looks straight ahead and acknowledges no one.

1. How did it happen that Hondo was captured without a fight?
2. Given his helplessness, why does Hondo insist on insulting Silva as much as possible?
3. As he enters the camp, what has Hondo resolved to do?

Chapter 14

Vittoro is a good judge of character, and he commends Hondo for his bravery in insulting Silva under such dire circumstances. Hondo says he recognizes Vittoro from the treaty council at Fort Meade. Vittoro is contemptuous of the treaty, which the white men must have broken. Vittoro wants to know exactly where the cavalry is and is curious about why Hondo is out here all alone. The author describes Hondo’s philosophical meditation as he nears death. He thinks about the beauty of the desert and mountains, “the creak of saddle leather in the sun.” (122) He regrets that he never had a son to pass his experiences on to. He realizes that his death won’t mean much; only a few people would mourn his passing for a short time. He regrets not having a family. An adopted family would be just as good, and he thinks of Johnny and Angie.

As he contemplates death, Hondo does not blame the Apache people. He thinks of how the indigenous peoples of America greeted the European explorers with nothing but friendship and were rewarded with centuries of treachery. He thinks of how everyone, Native Americans included, knew that all attempts to fight the white man’s advance were futile. It was only a matter of time. Even as he awaits torture, Hondo admires the Apache for fighting back against unbeatable odds.

His last thoughts before torture turn to Angie and Johnny. Silva begins the torture by filling Hondo’s palms with glowing coals, but at that same moment a near miracle occurs. One of the warriors examining the contents of Hondo’s saddlebags finds the tintype of Johnny, Vittoro’s adopted son and blood brother. Upon seeing the picture, Vittoro assumes that Hondo is Angie’s husband who has finally come home, and the torture is halted.

Silva is furious, and he calls upon Vittoro to give him “the blood right” to fight Hondo to the death. (124) Even with burned palms, Hondo defeats Silva, yet gives him the option of living or dying as he holds him motionless with a knife blade against his throat. Vittoro respects this, and when Silva chooses to submit and live, Vittoro chooses to let Hondo live as well. Silva’s demeanor by no means belies gratitude for his life, and in his heart he plans to kill Hondo when the opportunity presents itself.

1. How does the author use Hondo’s near death meditation to write about life?
2. Why doesn’t Hondo hold the Apache responsible for his impending death?
3. What can the reader interpret about Louis L’Amour’s stance on the fate of the Native American nations?
4. How are Vittoro and Silva different in character?
5. What did Hondo hope to gain from letting Silva live?

Chapter 15

By the time Vittoro and his cavalcade deliver Hondo to Angie, he is unconscious and must be revived with a bucket of water. When Vittoro asks if Hondo is Angie’s man, she replies, “Yes. This is my husband,” although she has no idea how this has come to pass. (129) Vittoro expresses satisfaction with the fact that Hondo has lived among the Apache and can pass their ways on to Small Warrior, Johnny. Angie surveys Hondo’s wounds from combat, capture, and torture and knows he will require some doctoring.

When Sam approaches the cabin, Silva relishes skewering the poor dog on his war lance. Upon hearing of Sam’s passing, Hondo talks about how old the dog was and how he almost ate him one winter when he was starving and how he was “an ugly cuss, that Sam,” only convincing the reader of his love for the dog whom he never fed but trusted his life to. (131)

As the rain falls on the cabin roof that night, Angie realizes that “the man is back,” just as Johnny has been asking for, and that Hondo is not just any man. (132)

1. How does this scene again illustrate the differences between Vittoro and Silva?
2. How does Hondo feel about the death of Sam? How does the reader know he feels that way?
3. How do Johnny and Angie feel now?
4. What problem might the reader foresee for the new family?

Chapter 16

Hondo shows Angie the tintype of Johnny and explains that he got it from Ed when he died, but before he can find the words to tell her that he killed Ed, Johnny enters and the conversation is sidelined for the time being.

Hondo takes Vittoro’s mandate that Johnny receive Apache male training to heart, and starts him on a training program of sorts that includes tossing him into deep water without warning to teach him to swim, learning to fish and hunt effectively, learning to read tracks, learning to find water and food in the desert. For the moment, life seems idyllic.

1. What differences in philosophy about raising a boy between Hondo and Angie are illustrated in this chapter?
2. Does Angie trust Hondo’s judgment? Why or why not?
3. How does Johnny react to this new training regimen?

Chapter 17

The author opens this chapter by describing the irony of the situation: Hondo Lane, the killer from the Brazos, and a boy of six, riding Old Gray. (141) Hondo is a patient and gentle teacher, and even if the lessons may be harsh, they are never cruel. Hondo passes on more information about the wildlife and geography of the Arizona desert, as well as philosophy about how to approach life.

The pair survives an encounter with four Apaches from the mountains familiar with the reputation of Vittoro but unaware of his relationship with the six-year-old boy. Three of the four are only curious, but the fourth is openly hostile, and when a fight seems unavoidable, Hondo kills him quickly and mercilessly. The other three seem more interested in Hondo’s method than in the tragedy of the man’s death.

When Vittoro’s party appears by surprise and hears what happened, the old chief instructs Johnny to take his coup stick and strike the dead warrior, thus counting coup. Johnny does this a little reluctantly, but Vittoro and the others are satisfied and leave. As they head home, Johnny cries, Hondo holds him and says finally, “It was a hard thing. . . . You did well, Johnny.” (150)

1. What are some of the lessons about life on the desert that Hondo teaches Johnny?
2. Why are these four Apache warriors not as friendly as the Mescalero?
3. What is the organizational structure of the Apache nation?
4. What was the difference between Johnny’s lesson early in the day and his final lesson late in the day?
5. Explore the contrast between Hondo’s reaction to the hostile warrior and his reaction to Johnny’s crying. Does it make sense to the reader?

Chapter 18

Hondo is relieved to see that Johnny bounces back from the killing and coup-counting in a short time.

Hondo broods over the fact that he is now living with the wife and son of a man whom he killed, and they do not know it. Again, he attempts to tell Angie, but Angie, sensing that this is something too important to rush, advises him to wait for the best time and not rush it.

Hondo describes life in an Apache village. No one steals, no one lets another go hungry, and everyone looks out for those who cannot take care of themselves.

Despite his roughness, Hondo reveals the many simple things he notices about Angie, and she thanks him for noticing.

Vittoro appears out of nowhere again. He tells them that the U.S. Cavalry will be upon them soon. He asks that Hondo not go with the soldiers, and Hondo agrees. Then he asks that Hondo and Angie lie to the soldiers about which direction the Apache warriors are headed in, and Hondo disagrees. Vittoro pronounces Hondo a good man, and later Hondo tells Angie that he thinks this was a test of his honesty.

Angie tells Hondo that she loves him but feels it is unseemly, given the short time that has passed since her husband’s death. Hondo replies that hearts do not follow calendars. The stars and the sky and the sounds of the night are so beautiful that the two cannot resist sleeping outside that night.

1. What has Hondo still failed to tell Angie and Johnny, which will always be hanging over them?
2. What values do Apaches have, according to Hondo? Does he think these values are consistent with Angie’s?
3. How does Vittoro test Hondo’s honesty?
4. What assumptions might a reader make about the author’s relationship with nature based on this chapter’s ending?

Chapter 19

Squadron D of the Sixth U.S. Cavalry files by the ranch, and Hondo is reunited with his old friend Buffalo Baker, whom Angie invites in for dinner along with Lieutenant McKay and a few others. In a light moment, Buffalo is embarrassed when he cannot immediately remember his seldom-used last name. Lieutenant Baker is incredulous that the ranchers are on friendly terms with Vittoro and refuses to believe that Vittoro could be a man of honor or anything more than a murdering savage. McKay has been mistaking Vittoro’s military tactics for cowardice, but when Hondo asks a few pointed questions about what a supreme military tactician such as Napoleon would have done in similar circumstances, McKay arrives at the realization that Vittoro may very well be a genius, and the U.S. Cavalry needs to operate with extreme caution or dire consequences may follow.

As the chapter ends, McKay asks for Hondo’s advice regarding Vittoro. The advice is that when Vittoro engages the soldiers in battle, it will be because he believes it is a situation in which he can win, so when the moment comes, don’t assume anything.

1. Why is it hard for Lieutenant McKay to accept that Vittoro may be a brilliant military leader and a man of honor?
2. How can the reader explain why Buffalo Baker couldn’t remember his own last name at first?
3. What advice does McKay solicit from Hondo about fighting Vittoro?

Chapter 20

Lennie Sproul is a scoundrel who is not above trying to blackmail someone. He knows that Hondo killed Ed Lowe, and he sees that Hondo has assumed Lowe’s place as head of his household. Sproul’s point of view is that Hondo has done this for material gain, and now Sproul tries to blackmail Hondo out of his Winchester rifle. Sproul proposes he’ll keep quiet, not realizing he has just taken his life in his hands. As he is getting the life beaten out of him by Hondo, Hondo realizes that Angie has heard their whole conversation. Their eyes meet for a long time, then Angie turns and walks away.

McKay expects Hondo to ride scout for them, but as Hondo promised Vittoro, he will not. The cavalry column rides away, and Hondo, Angie, and Johnny are left behind. Hondo attempts to open the conversation about the death of Ed Lowe, but Angie stops him. She wants time to think.

Thinking about the fate of his friends who are about to engage the Apache, Hondo ponders the army’s need for “[m]ore officers like General Crook who understood the Indian.” (167)

As the chapter ends, Hondo is about to saddle his horse. He appears to be leaving.

1. What mistake did Lennie Sproul make that could have been extremely hazardous to his health?
2. What was Angie’s reaction upon learning that Hondo killed her husband? Would she discuss it?
3. What assumption might Hondo be making about his own future?

Chapter 21

Johnny sees Hondo saddling his horse and is devastated that he is leaving. Hondo attempts to give him a few last words of woodsman lore, and the author tells us that Hondo’s “throat felt tight and choked up.” (169) Angie faces Hondo, who tells her he had “no choice.” Angie expresses a stream of feelings about her ex-husband, the strongest of which was hatred. Her appraisal of him seems to suggest that he was everything Hondo is not. She says that the fact that Hondo killed Ed Lowe does not change her love for Hondo.

Hondo presents some worst-case scenarios involving Johnny, but Angie doesn’t accept any of them. Having Hondo for a father is the best thing that could possibly happen to Johnny.

Hondo decides to stay with them. For the time being they will go to live on his ranch in California, but when the Apache Wars are over, they will return.

The Sixth Cavalry suddenly returns. As Hondo predicted, Vittoro attacked when he had the army at a disadvantage. However, Vittoro was killed, so the Apaches retreated even though they had the cavalry surrounded. Hondo explains that they will rejoin the attack as soon as they have a new war chief, which will doubtlessly be Silva.

Buffalo remarks that he is proud of their West Point lieutenant: “All his bullet holes is in the front part of him.” (173) Regardless of their courage, the cavalrymen are outnumbered, have suffered casualties, and must retreat to the post as soon as possible. Hondo tells Angie that one of Silva’s first attacks will be their ranch.

1. Which of the three people might the reader guess is hurting the most at the beginning of the chapter: Hondo, Johnny, or Angie? What clues are there?
2. What are some of the consequences of Vittoro’s death?
3. Why is Buffalo Baker proud of Lieutenant McKay?

Chapter 22

Hondo predicts that Silva will catch up with the column and attack within four hours. He also predicts that Silva will be ruthless and dangerous but impatient and less cunning than Vittoro. The commanding officer, Lieutenant McKay, is delirious from his wounds. With the Apaches’ first attack on the retreating column, the soldiers circled the wagons, creating a makeshift fort, and fired from inside. The Apache warriors attack and then stop, disappearing for no apparent reason, followed by waves of attacks from the tall grass, but are thwarted when Hondo initiates the stratagem of suddenly driving the wagons on, leaving the dismounted Apaches on foot and behind.

Each time the warriors attack, the soldiers employ a new tactic, each time catching the Apaches by surprise. Retreating cavalrymen suddenly stop, dismount, and fire from kneeling positions at the charging warriors, exploiting their reckless pursuit.

Silva employs a trick of his own, sending a group ahead to cut off the retreat with a charge of horsemen from the front. For the last time, the wagons are circled and the fighting continues, sometimes hand to hand. In the end, Hondo and Silva are face-to-face. They fight with blows from fists, feet, and lances, but ultimately Hondo does to Silva what Silva did to Sam.

With the death of Silva, the fighting is over. Hondo knows that the column will reach the fort before another chief can be decided upon.

As the column advances toward the fort, Hondo turns the reins over to Johnny despite Angie’s protests that he’s never driven the team, and somewhere among the wagons a mandolin and a bass voice combine in a rendition of “Sweet Betsy from Pike.” As the novel ends, Hondo’s thoughts are of a ranch and a field of newly mown hay, of a house with smoke rising from the chimney and a woman inside, holding a sleeping child.

1. How does the Sixth Cavalry avoid annihilation?
2. What is perhaps Silva’s fatal weakness?
3. Compare and contrast the opening and closing of the novel. What radical change has taken place in the protagonist?


Reader Response Activities

What is reader response theory?

The point of reader response theory for the classroom is basically to teach students to read for themselves and to think at high cognitive levels about their reading. It is well-known that when students personally interact with books, they are much more likely to develop skills of literary interpretation, as well as develop a love of literature.


Literature circles
were made famous by Harvey Daniels in his books Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in the Student-centered Classroom (Stenhouse, 1994) and Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups (Stenhouse, 2002). In the literature circles technique, students are actually preparing for what will simply be called a book club when they are adults, that is, sharing their personal ideas about a book that all members of the group have read. In Daniels’s original design, each member of a group of about six students has a different role each day, and the group members rotate through the roles. Some of the more common roles are: (1) discussion leader (who prepares discussion questions for the day’s reading assignment), (2) connections maker (who points out connections that could be made between the book and modern life), (3) literary luminary (who picks out some especially powerful quotations to read out loud), (4) illustrator (who creates an artistic rendering of some portion of the day’s reading), (5) vocabulary enricher (who looks up the meanings of unfamiliar words), and (6) investigator (who researches some factual portion of the reading). Each day the students hold a literature circle meeting and fulfill their roles.

Silent discussion is a means for engaging every student and allowing for interaction to take place in greater volume than is possible with traditional class discussion. After students have completed a meaningful reading assignment, place provocative quotations (along with the page number) from the book on poster paper (sheets about two feet by five feet or whatever will fit on the surfaces) around the room. Ask students to write a response to each quotation right on the poster paper. You might have them move in groups; for example, six members of one group all read and write responses to quotation A at the same time (hence the need for the large poster paper). After a set number of minutes, announce that it is time to rotate to the next quotation and respond again.
When everyone has rotated through all the quotations, ask them to again go through the rotations, but this time they must respond to what someone else has written. They may need some preparation for what is a constructive response.

When they have completed the second round of rotations, each group is responsible for presenting the poster they began with. They read the quotation, explain what it means in the context of the page on which it appeared, and pick a first response and its second response to share with the class. They then explain why they chose this set to share.

Letter writing can take a number of forms. Students choose a character and assume that character’s identity as they write a letter to another character in the book. Angie might write a letter to Hondo, for example, after he has left, explaining her life and how Johnny needs a real father. Vittoro might write a letter to the president of the United States, outlining the plight of the Apache and explaining why they fight. The possibilities are bound only by the students’ imaginations.

Newspaper publication encourages students to work in groups and create a few pages from a local newspaper (fictitious or not) reporting on the events of the time. Some articles can be serious: “Vittoro Takes Warpath,” for example, and some can be humorous, “Woman Wears Pants in Patagonia.” A little Internet and library research will help students to get background information. Writing skills are enhanced and students gain a better understanding of the setting.

Television news program is another technique for getting students thinking about the novel and its significance. Students work in groups to present a prepared news program with anchormen and -women, reporters in the field, and local inhabitants who are interviewed. An anchor might report on Vittoro’s movements, for example, while a reporter in the field might interview Silva about what his plans are. Like the newspaper project, this can produce both humorous and serious pieces.

Internet Resources

1. Apache Warriors:

2. Apache Wars:

3. Chiricahua Apaches:

4. Cochise Stronghold:

5. Fort Huachuca:

6. General George Crook:

7. Geronimo:

8. Louis L’Amour:

9. San Carlos Apache Tribe:

10. White Mountain Apache Tribe:
Additional Resources

Alesire, Peter. Reaping the Whirlwind: The Apache Wars. Facts on File, 1998.

Alesire, Peter. Warrior Woman: The Story of Lozen, Apache Warrior and Shaman. St. Martin’s Press, 2001.

Bourke, John G. On the Border with Crook. University of Nebraska Press, 1971.

Debo, Angie. Geronimo: The Man, His Time, His Place. University of Oklahoma Press, 1989.

Geronimo. Geronimo: His Own Story. Plume, 1996.

Hawkins, Reese. Remembering Louis L’Amour. McCleery and Sons, 2001.

L’Amour, Angelique. A Trail of Memories: The Quotations of Louis L'Amour. Bantam, 1988.

Michno, Gregory. Encyclopedia of Indian Wars: Western Battles and Skirmishes 1850–1890. Mountain Press, 2003.

Roberts, David. Once They Moved Like the Wind : Cochise, Geronimo, and the Apache Wars. Touchstone Books, 1994.

Sheridan, Thomas. Arizona: A History. University of Arizona Press, 1995.

Sweeney, Edwin. Cochise: Chiricahua Apache Chief (The Civilization of the American Indian, Vol. 204). University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.

Sweeney, Edwin. Making Peace with Cochise: The 1872 Journal of Captain Joseph Alton Sladen. University of Oklahoma Press, 1997.

Sweeney, Edwin, and Angie Debo. Great Apache Chiefs: Cochise and Geronimo. Fine Communications, 1997.

Trimble, Marshall. Roadside History of Arizona. Mountain Press, 1986.

U.S. Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca Directorate of Information Management. Fort Huachuca. 15 March 2004.
http://huachuca-www.army.mil/HISTORY/huachuca.htm. 20 March 2004.


This teacher's guide was created by James Blasingame, Jr., assistant professor of English at Arizona State University (ASU), in Tempe, Arizona. Dr. Blasingame works in the teacher preparation program at ASU, where he teaches methods classes and supervises student teachers. He is the coauthor of Teaching Writing in the Middle and Secondary Schools (Pearson Prentice Hall) and the author of They Rhymed with Their Boots: A Teacher’s Guide to Cowboy Poetry (The Writing Conference, Inc.). He is coeditor of The ALAN Review and creates the Books for Adolescents section of the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. Dr. Blasingame was a high school English teacher for eighteen years before joining higher education. He frequents the historic Apache Trail near his home in Arizona.

Your E-Mail Address
send me a copy

Recipient's E-Mail Address
(multiple addresses may be separated by commas)

A personal message: