Jamestown, North Dakota had provided Louis with an idyllic childhood but hard times finally uprooted the family and set them on a course that would forever alter Louis' life. After a series of bank failures ruined the economy of the upper Midwest, Dr. LaMoore, his wife Emily, and their sons Louis and John took their fortunes on the road. They traveled across the country in an often-desperate seven-year odyssey. During this time Louis skinned cattle in west Texas, baled hay in the Pecos valley of New Mexico, worked in the mines of Arizona, California, and Nevada, and in the saw mills and lumber yards of Oregon and Washington.


Wood cut by me near Kalamath Lake [Oregon].

It was in these various places and while working odd jobs that young Louis met the wide variety of characters that would later become the inspiration for his writing. In Oklahoma they were men like Bill Tilghman, once the marshal of Dodge City; Chris Madsen who had been a Deputy U.S. Marshall and a Sargent with the 5th cavalry; and Emmett Dalton of the notorious Dalton Gang. In New Mexico he met George Coe and Deluvina Maxwell who had both known Billy the Kid; Tom Pickett who'd had a thumb shot off in the Lincoln County War; Tom Threepersons who had been both a Northwest Mounted Policeman and a Texas Ranger; and Elfagio Baca, a famous New Mexico lawyer who had once engaged over eighty of Tom Slaughter's cowboys for 33 hours in one of the west's most famous gunfights. During his years in Arizona Louis met Jeff Milton, a Texas Ranger and Border Patrolman and Jim Roberts, the last survivor of the Tonto Basin War and later Marshall of Jerome. But perhaps most importantly, during the years he was traveling around the country, young Louis met hundreds of men and women who, though unknown historically, were equally important as examples of what the people of the nineteenth century were like.

In the years after leaving Jamestown Louis had a sporadic career as a professional boxer. Having been well taught by his father and older brothers, Louis made extra money from an occasional prizefight and, in the year just after his family left Jamestown, he often fought in the ring for the money to buy gas so that they could move on. On more than one occasion a run of luck allowed him to box full time. Over the years he spent time in dim gymnasiums in cities all across the west, first as a boxer, then as second and finally as a trainer, seeing the world of fighters, managers, gangsters and gamblers first hand. Louis ended his fighting career by coaching several successful Golden Gloves teams; the first few in Oklahoma, the last, an army team that went to the Tournament of Champions in Chicago. Louis freely drew from this experience for many of the boxing stories in the collections "Hills of Homicide", "Beyond the Great Snow Mountains" and "Off the Mangrove Coast".


The Steadfast, one of the ships I went to sea on.

On his own, Louis hoboed across the country, hopping freight trains with men who had been riding the rails for half a century. He wrapped newspaper under his clothes to keep warm while sleeping in hobo jungles, grain bins and the gaps in piles of lumber. He spent three months "on the beach," in San Pedro, California and circled the globe as a merchant seaman, visiting England, Japan, China, Borneo, the Dutch East Indies, Arabia, Egypt, and Panama with the rough and ready crews of various steamships on which he served. In later years he wrote stories about these times, his own experiences and those of people he had known. Many of these stories are now published in the collection "Yondering" and there are two more in "Off the Mangrove Coast". Fiction based on Louis' travels in the Far East can be found in "West from Singapore," "Night over the Solomons," "Beyond the Great Snow Mountains," and "Off the Mangrove Coast."

For a more in depth look at this fascinating time in Louis life you may check out the section "Around the world with Louis L'Amour" in the Great Adventure website. Here, you will read detailed stories written in Louis own words, view photographs from this time, learn a little history and and discover how and why this became perhaps the most influential time in his life and the inspiration for his great adventure stories!

Click here to check out the section "Around the World with Louis L'Amour"

Traveling around the country and working in various remote locations gave Louis an intimate first-hand knowledge of the territory and landscape where the majority of his stories would be set. He spent time hiking around or traveling through what would later be the settings for Sackett (the San Juan Mountains of Colorado), Bendigo Shafter (the South Pass area of Wyoming), Shalako (the boot heel of New Mexico), Son of a Wanted Man (the Utah Canyon Lands), Taggart (central Arizona), Mojave Crossing (the California desert and Los Angeles), The Man Called Noon (central New Mexico and Southern Colorado), Passin Through (Southwest Colorado), Fallon (Northern Nevada), Mustang Man (Northeast New Mexico), North to the Rails (New Mexico, Texas and Kansas), and The Empty Land (Northern Utah).

 

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