Beauty for Ashes: A Novel of The Mountain Men

Overview

Trapping beaver was the major source of income for mountain men in the Rocky

Mountain West of the 1820s — the luxuriant, sought-after pelts could make a man rich. But it was a dangerous way to make a living: winter blizzards, hostile Indians, sickness, and starvation lurked at every point of the compass. Only a special brand of man could survive it all.

After making a harrowing 700-mile journey alone and on foot from the Sweetwater River in ...

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Overview

Trapping beaver was the major source of income for mountain men in the Rocky

Mountain West of the 1820s — the luxuriant, sought-after pelts could make a man rich. But it was a dangerous way to make a living: winter blizzards, hostile Indians, sickness, and starvation lurked at every point of the compass. Only a special brand of man could survive it all.

After making a harrowing 700-mile journey alone and on foot from the Sweetwater River in Wyoming to Fort Atkinson on the Missouri River and finding a home in the fur trade, young Sam Morgan is becoming just such a man. Followed closely by Coy, his faithful coyote pup, and trapping with a brigade of mountain men, Sam seeks more than furs and wealth. He is searching for the love of his life, the Crow Indian woman Meadowlark, and with his companions — the French-Canadian Gideon Dubois, the mulatto Jim Beckwourth, and the Pawnee Third Wing — he heads for the Wind River country and the village of Meadowlark's people.

Sam is put to every test in his journey to the Crow village: fights with Pawnee, Lakota and Blackfeet; captivity and escape from a Sioux camp, buffalo hunts, and the distrust of Meadowlark's family and tribe. He endures the sweat lodge and Sun Dance ceremonies that test his beliefs and self-confidence, and concocts a last-ditch, daring, and foolhardy scheme to win Meadowlark's hand.

For all its page-turning action, Beauty for Ashes is the unforgettable story of a boy who becomes a man by necessity in the cruel, beautiful, unexplored wilderness of the Old West.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The glory years of frontier life, fresh and rich."

Kirkus Reviews

"A rousing installment in a fine epic of the American frontier."

Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
Blevins's (So Wild a Dream) lively fur-trading tales of the American West continue with this rousing second entry in the Rendezvous series. In the early 1820s, white-haired 19-year-old Sam Morgan departs his native Pennsylvania hometown for the second time after returning from adventures in the West as a trapper. His homecoming was marred by family squabbling, and a disenchanted Sam sets out again promising never to return. He's on a mission of love to find Meadowlark, a virginal Indian maiden he left behind two years before. Upon reaching Meadowlark's village, Sam presents her with gifts and their reunion is joyous. But Sam's battle to keep her has just begun, and he struggles to learn to live in an alien culture. Undaunted by failure in a bow-and-arrow contest, he proposes to Meadowlark. But on a trapping excursion with Indian friends, Sam's group is violently ambushed by Lakotas, and Sam is seized and stripped of his possessions. He manages to escape, but now he has nothing to offer Meadowlark, who has since become otherwise engaged. A true willingness to absorb Crow family customs pays off with a happy ending. Sam's adventures are boyishly uncomplicated and vibrant, making this a rousing installment in a fine epic of the American frontier. Agent, Nat Sobel. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A second in the author's Rendezvous series (So Wild a Dream, not reviewed), about the early days of the fur trade. Blevins (Westward: A Fictional History of the American West, 2003, etc.) is often mystical when writing about Indians, and his gritty fiction brings to mind the fur-trade novels of Frederick Manfred (Lord Grizzly, 1954) and Vardis Fisher (Mountain Man). In So Wild a Dream, set in the 1820s, Pittsburgh's white-haired, impressionable young Sam Morgan, finding Pennsylvania dull, lights out for the West, becomes a hand on a riverboat, has many adventures on the frontier, then heads into the unmapped West on a grueling 700-mile trek, alone and on foot, across the Great Plains to the Rockies, where men blaze trails across the mountains. Between Missouri and the Pacific, he falls in with various Indian tribes and learns crafts for living in the wilds. Now, after two years trapping beaver, he goes home, fights with his family, heads back west. Downhearted, he dreams himself joined to a Spirit Buffalo (named Samalo), decides to seek his beloved Indian maiden Meadowlark, and sets off with his pet coyote to find her. Sam and three friends, including Third Wing, a Pawnee, go up Wind River to look for her. Meadowlark is glad to see him, but Sam is humiliated by a Crow archery game that awards him the name No Arrows. Nor can he ride as well as Crow. When another Crow courts Meadowlark, Sam must become a real Crow if he's to win her, but after he's captured by Lakota Sioux (and escapes), he's too poor to woo her. And he's responsible for a young Crow's death. Meadowlark's parents believe a prophecy that White Men will overrun the land: Thus Meadowlark mustn't marry a White. But soon thePacific beckons them both. The glory years of frontier life, fresh and rich.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765305749
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 10/1/2004
  • Series: Rendezvous Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.64 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.28 (d)

Meet the Author

In addition to the Rendezvous novels (So Wild a Dream and Beauty for Ashes), Win Blevins, an authority on the Plains Indians and fur-trade era of the West, is author of Give Your Heart to the Hawks, Stone Song, his prize-winning novel of Crazy Horse, plus Charbonneau, Rock Child, RavenShadow and others. He lives in Utah with his wife Meredith, also a novelist.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Sam pictured himself as a hollow bone, stripped of the marrow that made him alive.

A hollow man notices little. He barely registered his fellow passengers, the captain, and crew. He barely knew the name of the steamboat, or the ports they stopped in, Cincinnati, Louisville, Evansville . . .

He did feel the force of the current, the urge of the river, westward, westward, down the Ohio River. As much as he could experience any emotion, he was glad.

At night he dreamt of emptiness. He slept outside on the bow of the steamer, wrapped in the moon's misty light and curled up with his pet coyote. Sometimes he dreamt that he was a feather, drifting on the wind alone. He had heard Crow men, his friends, make a piping music with the hollow bone from the wing of an eagle. But Sam's flight made no music. The air passed through him, sterile, and no song filled his emptiness.

For the past two years he had wandered as a beaver hunter through the Rocky Mountains and the huge plains that stretched from them to the Missouri River. Two weeks ago he had started home, drawn by a force he could not name. After traveling a thousand miles he found a world and a family he no longer knew. He felled his older brother with a fist. He said a hurried goodbye to his mother and his sisters, a last goodbye. In effect, he had tipped his life upside down and poured out his past, his family, his home.

Now he was empty.

It was Sam's nature to be curious, especially curious about people. Yet these days he wanted to talk only to his coyote, Coy. Why? He didn't know. He didn't always know himself.

He paid attention mostly to the motion of the currents, downriver. He didn't see the passing woodlands of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, though he knew they were beautiful. He used mostly his mind's eye. He saw stretches of plain so vast they must embrace the whole world. He saw mountains rolling sensuously against a lilac sky. He tasted the water in clear mountain creeks, so cold it hurt the gullet. He saw huge herds of buffalo running across the grasslands, so thick a man could dance across an entire herd and never touch the ground. He saw friends, both trappers and Indians. He saw his best friend, Blue Medicine Horse, and the woman he loved, Meadowlark.

When he looked at his fellow passengers, and only then, he thought of what was behind him. Home, yes, maybe that was the word for it, which was closed to him now. He said the word in his mind only—-homeless.

He set his feet on the bow of the steamboat, which now rode the turbulent waters of the Ohio and would soon churn up the great Mississippi to St. Louis, the river town. There he would set off for the Rocky Mountains, alone. Home? He didn't know. He only wanted to be there, now.

Sometimes, wrapped in his blankets on the bow, he had another dream. In this dream he was not a hollow feather floating on the wind. He was a buffalo, a buffalo not of the earthly world, but of another dimension, maybe the spirit world. There something happened to him and the buffalo, something that could not happen in the ordinary world.

This realm seemed to him more real than the ordinary world, and more alive. In his dream he held his arms out toward the Spirit Buffalo, but it was always too far away, elusive, and mysterious. In the West, when he got there, he would feel the buffalo close again, and vital.

He was aware that his companions on the boat had no thought of buffalo, and certainly not Spirit Buffalo. They cared nothing about the tow-headed youth who was obviously the expedition's poorest, least-educated, least-decorous passenger. They showed distaste for the dog that hung near him. (Sam had been obliged to lie to the captain that his coyote was a common dog.) Sam overheard the captain dismissing him curtly to Mrs. Goodwill as "A backwoodsman of the roughest sort." He noticed how they avoided him.

They felt equally alien to him. He rolled into the rhythm of the waters.

After the boat turned up the Mississippi, closer to buffalo country, Sam saw the Spirit Buffalo more often, saw it with his inner eyes.

The Spirit Buffalo taunted him every night. Sometimes he pictured it exactly as it first came to him. On these nights he once again performed the miracle. He entered into the body of the Spirit Buffalo, knitted himself into it, mingled his blood with its blood, its heart with his own, and they breathed with one breath. Then he and the Buffalo rose as one man-beast, surveyed all, and set forth.

"Samalo." That one word sounded, though he didn't know who spoke it. It was his own name and the name Buffalo joined. One creature—-Samalo.

Some nights he got just pieces of the dream, and some nights the pieces were mad, like a painting on glass—-but the glass had been dropped, the paintings turned to shards, glinting hints of a beauty that once had been, and might or might not be again.

Sam would put the painting back together—-once he was in the West, once he got up the Missouri River to the country where the buffalo lived, the buffalo that were physical and fed the belly, and the Buffalo that fed the spirit.

And once he was in the West, he would make his way to the Wind River Mountains, where her village lived, and seek out Meadowlark.

Passengers embarked, passengers disembarked, and Sam spoke to few. Port after port passed. Sam learned the rhythm of his travel.

In St. Louis the clerk asked his name. Sam nearly said "Samalo," but managed to announce clearly, "Sam Morgan." The clerk informed him that General Ashley expected him to join the outfit at Fort Atkinson. Four hundred miles of country to ride alone, but that didn't bother Sam—-it was to the west.

He went about his business, tied up loose ends. He visited with dear friends from his first trip to St. Louis, Abby and Grumble, and said goodbye to them with indecent haste. "When I get to the West," he kept saying to himself, "I will come alive."

Copyright © 2004 by Win Blevins

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First Chapter

Chapter One

Sam pictured himself as a hollow bone, stripped of the marrow that made him alive.

A hollow man notices little. He barely registered his fellow passengers, the captain, and crew. He barely knew the name of the steamboat, or the ports they stopped in, Cincinnati, Louisville, Evansville . . .

He did feel the force of the current, the urge of the river, westward, westward, down the Ohio River. As much as he could experience any emotion, he was glad.

At night he dreamt of emptiness. He slept outside on the bow of the steamer, wrapped in the moon's misty light and curled up with his pet coyote. Sometimes he dreamt that he was a feather, drifting on the wind alone. He had heard Crow men, his friends, make a piping music with the hollow bone from the wing of an eagle. But Sam's flight made no music. The air passed through him, sterile, and no song filled his emptiness.

For the past two years he had wandered as a beaver hunter through the Rocky Mountains and the huge plains that stretched from them to the Missouri River. Two weeks ago he had started home, drawn by a force he could not name. After traveling a thousand miles he found a world and a family he no longer knew. He felled his older brother with a fist. He said a hurried goodbye to his mother and his sisters, a last goodbye. In effect, he had tipped his life upside down and poured out his past, his family, his home.

Now he was empty.

It was Sam's nature to be curious, especially curious about people. Yet these days he wanted to talk only to his coyote, Coy. Why? He didn't know. He didn't always know himself.

He paid attention mostly to the motion of thecurrents, downriver. He didn't see the passing woodlands of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, though he knew they were beautiful. He used mostly his mind's eye. He saw stretches of plain so vast they must embrace the whole world. He saw mountains rolling sensuously against a lilac sky. He tasted the water in clear mountain creeks, so cold it hurt the gullet. He saw huge herds of buffalo running across the grasslands, so thick a man could dance across an entire herd and never touch the ground. He saw friends, both trappers and Indians. He saw his best friend, Blue Medicine Horse, and the woman he loved, Meadowlark.

When he looked at his fellow passengers, and only then, he thought of what was behind him. Home, yes, maybe that was the word for it, which was closed to him now. He said the word in his mind only--homeless.

He set his feet on the bow of the steamboat, which now rode the turbulent waters of the Ohio and would soon churn up the great Mississippi to St. Louis, the river town. There he would set off for the Rocky Mountains, alone. Home? He didn't know. He only wanted to be there, now.

Sometimes, wrapped in his blankets on the bow, he had another dream. In this dream he was not a hollow feather floating on the wind. He was a buffalo, a buffalo not of the earthly world, but of another dimension, maybe the spirit world. There something happened to him and the buffalo, something that could not happen in the ordinary world.

This realm seemed to him more real than the ordinary world, and more alive. In his dream he held his arms out toward the Spirit Buffalo, but it was always too far away, elusive, and mysterious. In the West, when he got there, he would feel the buffalo close again, and vital.

He was aware that his companions on the boat had no thought of buffalo, and certainly not Spirit Buffalo. They cared nothing about the tow-headed youth who was obviously the expedition's poorest, least-educated, least-decorous passenger. They showed distaste for the dog that hung near him. (Sam had been obliged to lie to the captain that his coyote was a common dog.) Sam overheard the captain dismissing him curtly to Mrs. Goodwill as "A backwoodsman of the roughest sort." He noticed how they avoided him.

They felt equally alien to him. He rolled into the rhythm of the waters.


After the boat turned up the Mississippi, closer to buffalo country, Sam saw the Spirit Buffalo more often, saw it with his inner eyes.

The Spirit Buffalo taunted him every night. Sometimes he pictured it exactly as it first came to him. On these nights he once again performed the miracle. He entered into the body of the Spirit Buffalo, knitted himself into it, mingled his blood with its blood, its heart with his own, and they breathed with one breath. Then he and the Buffalo rose as one man-beast, surveyed all, and set forth.

"Samalo." That one word sounded, though he didn't know who spoke it. It was his own name and the name Buffalo joined. One creature--Samalo.

Some nights he got just pieces of the dream, and some nights the pieces were mad, like a painting on glass--but the glass had been dropped, the paintings turned to shards, glinting hints of a beauty that once had been, and might or might not be again.

Sam would put the painting back together--once he was in the West, once he got up the Missouri River to the country where the buffalo lived, the buffalo that were physical and fed the belly, and the Buffalo that fed the spirit.

And once he was in the West, he would make his way to the Wind River Mountains, where her village lived, and seek out Meadowlark.

Passengers embarked, passengers disembarked, and Sam spoke to few. Port after port passed. Sam learned the rhythm of his travel.

In St. Louis the clerk asked his name. Sam nearly said "Samalo," but managed to announce clearly, "Sam Morgan." The clerk informed him that General Ashley expected him to join the outfit at Fort Atkinson. Four hundred miles of country to ride alone, but that didn't bother Sam--it was to the west.

He went about his business, tied up loose ends. He visited with dear friends from his first trip to St. Louis, Abby and Grumble, and said goodbye to them with indecent haste. "When I get to the West," he kept saying to himself, "I will come alive."

Copyright © 2004 by Win Blevins
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2006

    They need to make this into a mini series!!!!

    I just bought this book yesterday and I am already on Chapter 11. When I found out that is was a sequel and that there is a third book, I orderd both So Wild a Dream and Golden Bear online yesterday. Since I saw Into the West and read that book, I have been into American Indian cultures and the history of the west and the mountain men. I never thought any book could top the miniseries Into the west, but if the first book is just as good as this one and the third one is good, they should turn this into a miniseries based on all three novels. Mr. Blevins should sell the movie rights and I know just the person who can pull something like this off for a miniseries. Can you say Mel Gibson? The reason I like this book, because it's an interracial love story and I love those kinds of romance western that involve the American Indians. Bravo Mr. Blevins. I hope the first and third books are just as good. Please contact Mel Gibson or Steven Spielberg or someone with some integrity to turn these three novels into a miniseries. I think it would knock Into the West off the map.

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