Letters from the Lunar Outpost

Beauty and folly are old companions.
- Franklin, American Statesman, Printer, Scientist, and Writer (1706-1790)

A nice passage from the classic Louis L’Amour book, Hondo, where our protagonist, who is decidedly a man of few words, waxes poetic for a brief moment and shows us that the few words spoken do not equate to a lack of thought, feeling or perception.

“This Indian wife you have… “

“Had. She’s dead.” He spoke quietly, without emotion.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up an unhappy memory.”

He turned, letting the horse stand. He pushed his hat back on his head and considered her remark. “I don’t remember anything unhappy about Destarte.”

“Destarte! How musical! What does it mean?”

“You can’t say it except in Mescalero. It means Morning, but that isn’t what it means, either. Indian words are more than just that. They also mean the feel and the sound of the name. It means like Crack of Dawn, the first bronze light that makes the buttes stand out against the gray desert. It means the first sound you hear of a brook curling over some rocks – some trout jumping and a beaver crooning. It means the sound a stallion makes when he whistles at some mares just as the first puff of wind kicks up at daybreak.

It means like you get up in the first light and you and her go out of the wickiup, where it smells smoky and private and just you and her, and kind of safe with just the two of you there, and you stand outside and smell the first bite of the wind coming down from the high divide and promising the first snowfall. Well, you just can’t say what it means in English. Anyway, that was her name. Destarte.”

“Hondo” – Louis L’Amour, 1953

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