L’Amour and Daniels: Old Friends Forever - Soapbox Jr.
Around Thanksgiving, Beau L’Amour - son of author Louis L’Amour - emailed me. I have spoken to his mother, Kathy, a few times over the past 15 years, but I don’t think I have spoken to nor seen Beau in probably close to 30 years.
We first met in the summer of 1980 when our families vacationed together.
A little history first.
For those who don’t know, Louis L’Amour (pronounced “Louie”) was a famed author, and most of his work was set in the old west, although he did have a few novels set in more modern times and is in the top 25 bestselling authors of all time with estimates of somewhere between 230 million to 330 million Louis L’Amour books sold.
Dad was a huge fan of Louis’ novels. In fact, in 1976, dad dedicated his album, ‘High Lonesome,’ to Louis and artist James Bama who painted in a highly photo-realistic style and did a lot of Western art.
The ‘High Lonesome’ dedication got the attention of Louis, and the two struck up a friendship.
I believe that Louis and his wife, Kathy, were invited to a CDB show somewhere in Southern California, and the two talked after the band’s set and cemented the friendship.
A few years later in 1980, the L’Amours invited us to vacation with them in Durango, Colorado one summer. We stayed at a resort called Tamarron which was just a few miles away from downtown Durango.
The Daniels clan arrived in Colorado, and I got to meet Louis, Kathy, and their children, Beau and Angelique. I was 15 at the time, and they were a little older than I was. Angelique also brought a friend from school along with her named Maria.
Maria’s mother was an actress in the 60s who tragically died in a car accident when Maria was very young.
Angelique and Maria were each a year older than me, and Beau a couple of years older than the girls, with who I got along with well. Beau and I probably didn’t get as close as the girls, but I distinctly remember us having a common interest in filmmaking.
So, we all palled around for the duration of the trip, and the L’Amours took us on a tour of the area, and locations from his books.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Louis scouted locations for his books like film directors scout shooting locations, and it didn’t stop there. Where there may be a dry creek bed in the present when he was writing the story, he would research and ask old-timers to find out if that creek bed was a raging stream back when the story was set, and then incorporate that information.
I remember us riding up into the base of the San Juan National Forest and watching Louis pointing out locations from some of the books in his series about a family named The Sacketts. Louis started telling dad, “Over there is where Tell Sackett got shot off his horse and there’s the cave he hid out in…” Dad was like a kid in a candy store.
Louis also wrote a few stories that were set in what was then the present. He wrote “Last of the Breed” about an American fighter pilot shot down in the former Soviet Union, and later escapes from a Siberian prison and must rely on the skills of his Native American ancestors for survival.
I’m embarrassed to say that haven’t read much of his work, but I was drawn to a book he wrote called “The Haunted Mesa” which delved more into the supernatural. Reading it was a fascinating experience because it was set in and around the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona, and much of the story took place in “present day” Durango. The main character stayed in the same resort that we did when we first visited the area and ate at the same spectacular breakfast buffet we did, he drove down streets that we got very familiar with, and part of the story takes place near some of the Anasazi ruins at spectacular cave dwellings called Cliff Palace.
I’ve never read a book that I could so vividly picture in my mind. I’ve often said it was as close as you could come to reading a movie.
Speaking of Cliff Palace, we went to the national park after hours with a group, who I assume were donors and VIPs for a special viewing. The park rangers put candles in paper bags and put them in the windows of each of the cliff dwellings. Some drums and sound effects gave those in attendance a vision of the distant past and what this archeological site might have looked like when the Anasazi lived there.
We rode the old Durango-Silverton Railroad to the small mining town of Silverton, and to call it a picturesque excursion doesn’t do it justice. We enjoyed the melodrama at the Strater Hotel – where Louis began writing the first of his Sackett books, dined at the Palace Restaurant and Francisco’s, and stared into the dusty windows of a store that had closed when the owner died, and sat there empty for decades.
We came back the following year and we spent even more time in Durango with the L’Amours over the next few years.
Years later, in 1985, Louis returned the honor when he dedicated his book, “Jubal Sackett,” to my mom and dad, and that same year, dad did a commercial for a Louis L’Amour collectors book series set.
Louis and Kathy bought a ranch which contained a log building that had been a stagecoach stop at one point and turned it into their Colorado home, and we spent time once more with them in 1987, and Angelique and I hiked up the mountainous trail on their ranch which Louis and Kathy and mom and dad had already hiked, earning our place in the “Over the Mountain Gang.” We even had sweatshirts made with the motto “We Persevere.”
Around that time, mom and dad bought some land not too far away from Louis and Kathy, and they eventually built their own Colorado home in the late 90s.
Sadly, Louis passed away in 1988 at the age of 80. Many are surprised to learn that as much as he loved the old west, he didn’t ride horses. From what I remember, he was afraid of getting thrown and injuring his hands, and without his hands, he wouldn’t be able to write.
They continued to be friends with Kathy and when mom and dad usually spent late December to about mid-February at their home in Colorado, they still got together with Kathy frequently.
Due to COVID, I don’t think mom and I will be heading back to Colorado anytime soon, but I know we will once the world gets back to some sense of normalcy.
I mentioned Angelique L’Amour’s friend, Maria, earlier. Maria has followed in her mother’s footsteps and pursued acting, and she’s been extremely successful. Her mother’s name was Jayne Mansfield, and her father was a Hungarian bodybuilder named Mickey Hargitay.
When Maria started acting, she began using her Hungarian name, Marishka, and Marishka Hargitay has been a mainstay on TV for the past 20 years as the star of ‘Law & Order: SVU.’
Not too shabby.
The email from Beau was a surprise, but a welcome one. It got me thinking about the link that our families have shared, and how it needs to continue. Dad and Louis began a friendship and mutual admiration that should endure beyond their lifetimes.
I’m looking forward to being able to catch up with Beau, and since he’s already been doing what I’m hoping to do - keeping his father’s legacy alive - I think I can learn a lot from him, just like my dad learned from his.
May the L’Amour-Daniels bond endure forever.
What do you think?
Pray for our troops, our police, the peace of Jerusalem, and for our nation.
God Bless America!
— Charlie Daniels, Jr.
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