After the family left, we sat by the fire under a growing moon, listening to Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage. There is plenty of romance in Grey’s novels, the romance of men and women, of hero’s and villains, and of earth and the heavens. But there is also romance in our lives: between John and I, and in a fire under a Montana sky.
We listened and recognized the stories that have fueled motion picture westerns and we also recognized in ourselves the lingering American desire for bravery, endurance, stoical indifference to pain and hardship, recklessness, contempt for law and a hawk-like need for freedom. It is a combination that fuels both commendable and contemptible behavior. As Stegner said, America is still a “flawed glory and an exhilarating task.