The West’s leading storyteller is convinced that the tallest tales are the true ones. 

Interview by Gary Vorhes, January 1987
Photos by Darrell Arnold

LLA Coverphoto 700

It’s entirely accurate to say that millions of people have read the novels of Louis L’ Amour. In paperback, in hardback, and short story, on movie and television screen, he has brought the West to life.

As one of those millions who have read all of the L’ Amour books, I was bedazzled when the famed author agreed to an interview at his ranch near Durango, Colo., where he spends part of his time. We had a morning in mid-August with him and his gracious wife, Kathy.

The man’s sweeping knowledge of history is exceeded only by his enthusiasm for it. He is a national treasure.

How did you settle on the Four Corners area (where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico meet) as the place you wanted to live?

LLA pg17 I always liked the area. I came in here first when I was 19 years old. I was looking for a job in the mines. I had been down working in a mine down the Colorado River, a place called Katherine, near Davis Dam. I had been working there and they closed the mine temporarily, so we were all wondering where we were going to go. There were 160 of us being turned loose from the mill and the mine.

One of the fellas I’d worked with quite a bit was part Paiute Indian, and a good miner. He said, “You know, I’ve got some claims up in the upper Vallecito (north of Durango). I’ve got to go up there and do some assessment work on the claims; why don’t you come along with me, there might be a job at Silverton in the mines.”

So I came along. Well, there wasn’t a job. But I fell in love with the country. And I went up with him in the upper Vallecito and helped him work his claim a little bit. Mostly I just scouted around the country, climbed mountains, and looked around.

So I decided I was going to come back here. Well, a lot of things intervened. I started writing, I traveled in the Far East for a while, and then I was in the Army during the war, and got married.

There was some talk, as there was for several years before the present man bought the railroad, of them discontinuing the narrow-gauge railroad from Durango to Silverton. My son was kind of hipped on railroads at the time–he was about 51/2 years old then. So I decided he should have a chance to ride a steam train while there was still one around. So I brought him up here. The family all fell in love with the country like I did. That was 20 years ago.

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