Valley of the Whispering Wind

In this excerpt from Louis L’Amour’s Kilkenny, a drifter’s pursuit of a quiet life finds him the perfect piece of land and a few obstacles along the way.

| May/June 2018

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    Wind in the pines is music to this drifter's ears.
    Photo by Getty Images/YouraPechkin
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    Nez Perce Creek in Yellowstone National Park at sunset
    Photo by Getty Images/dszc

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To the high valleys then, came a lone rider, a man who rode with the caution born of riding long on strange trails in a land untamed and restless with danger.

The Indian Wars were largely of the past, although there were still the Sioux, the Cheyenne, Nez Percé and the Apache with fight left in them, but on the land from which the Indian had been driven or from which he was being driven, the white man had not found peace — or at best an uneasy peace when men rode with guns at hand and eyes alert for danger.

Cattle had come to replace the buffalo, and then bolder men had pushed their herds into the mountain valleys — valleys lush with grass that fattened cattle amazingly fast — and as these valleys began to be settled, some men drifted to the high meadows among the peaks.

Lonely, largely overlooked, but excellent grazing in spring, summer, and early fall, the valleys were the last land to be taken. It was to one such valley that Kilkenny rode, and when he drew up and looked around him, he made his decision. This was the home he had been seeking, on this land would he stay.

Riding on, he studied the valley. To right and left lay towering ridges that walled the valley in, and to the east other peaks lifted, and west the valley swung hard around and at one corner the wall was broken sharply off to fall sheer away for more than 600 feet. Kilkenny paused long upon the lip, looking out over that immeasurable distance toward the faraway line of the purple hills. It was then that he­ first became conscious of the sound, a faint scarcely discernible whispering. Holding himself erect, he listened intently. It was the wind! The whispering wind!

Wind among the tall pines, among the rocks and the erosion-gnawed holes, a sound such as he had never heard, a sound like far off music in which no notes could be detected, a sound so strange that he could not stop listening. He turned then in his saddle and looked back over the valley he had found. At least 2,000 acres! Grassy and lush with growth, water aplenty, and that whispering! The valley of the whispering wind!

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