I much enjoyed this pleasant, if predictable tale of the weird west, somewhat after the fashion of Ambrose Bierce, but with Howard’s underrated gift for dialogue and authentically passionate characters. Within this brief tale of a young man discovering himself as he comes to appreciate a living ancestor of his kind—the first white man in the post oak country—the reader finds three of Howard’s core themes:
-that some folks possess a vitality beyond the ken of their fellows and that this, like the ancient Latin concept of the numen, represents an up-flow of energy born through the ages in the blood,
-that the hero’s body is ultimately his cage,
-and that white men have permitted themselves to fall to far from their primal roots and often require a partnership with a more primitive person to reconnect with the greater world. The figure of the Lipan healer who partners with Garfield is reminiscent of the relationships between Kull and Brule, Bran and the witch, Kane and Nogala and ultimately Conan and his villainous enemies, who etch his persona the more brilliantly for their arcane animus.
The reading linked below is by Nathan Kloske and is superb.