“My father taught me to shoot a rifle and a shotgun. He used to take me hunting.”
“Ever kill anything?”
“A deer…I cried.”
Boone smiled. “Man’s a predator. He’s a hunter by instinct. I suspect he’s taken his living from the wild animals and plants as long as he’s been around. But he was a hunter first, bred to be a hunter.”
“I don’t believe that.”
“I didn’t suspect you did. But think of it. All the predators have their eyes lookin’ forward to keep their eyes on the hunted. The game that’s hunted has eyes on the side of their head so they can watch better. You take notice, ma’am, the wolf, the lion, the bear, all animals that hunt have eyes lookin’ straight forward. So does man.”
“I don’t like to think of that. I hope we’ve gone beyond such attitudes. Isn’t that what civilization does, Mr. Boone? To teach us to live together in peace?”
“I reckon that’s the ideal, ma’am, but all folks don’t become civilized to onct. There’s some of us lag behind, some of us have to protect the rest of you civilized folks from those who haven’t gotten beyond the huntin’ stage. When a man comes at you with a gun or a knife or a spear, you don’t have much time to convince him that he’s actin’ uncivilized, and he isn’t likely to listen. That’s when you yourself become uncivilized in a hurry or you die.”
“I wouldn’t want to kill a man.”
“No decent-minded person does, but if there’s somebody up on that ridge with a rifle who is about kill Peg’s mother, you’d better kill him first.
“You see, ma’am, when a man sets out to rob and kill, he’s strikin’ a blow not only at you, at Peg, Wat, and Matty here but at all civilization. He’s striking a blow at all man has done to rise from savagery.
“I’m not a scholar, but the way I see it is that men have learned to become what we call civilized men by stages, and every child growing up retraces that pattern during his lifetime.
“There’s a time when youngsters like to play capture games, a time when they like to build play houses and huts, if it is only to put a blanket over a couple chairs and crawl under it.
“There’s a time when they like to make bows and arrows, dodging around and hunting each other. Hide-an’-seek is one way of doing it. After a while, he grows beyond that stage, or most of them do.
“Some folks just lag behind. They never grow beyond that hunting and hiding stage. They become thieves and robbers.
“Only a few years ago, a young man could go to war, and if he did enough looting or captured enough horses or arms, he could come home a rich man. Most of those who originally had titles over there in Europe had them because they were especially good at killing and robbing and were given titles for doing it in support of their king.
“Well, we’ve outgrown that. Or some of us have. The others are still lingering back there in a hunting, gathering, and raiding stage, and if you meet one of them alone in the dark, you’d better remember he’s not a human being but a savage, a wild animal, and will act like one.”
“So I must descend to his level?”
“If you want to be civilized, ma’am, you’re going to have to fight to protect it, or all the civilized people will be dead, and we will be back in the darkness of savagery.”
“You sound like a philosopher, Mr. Boone.”
“No, ma’am, but out there in the night, sometimes with a campfire, a man has time to think. He can’t get his thoughts from books. He has to think things out for himself, and a man likes to understand what life he’s living and why he must do some things.
“I’m not sure all my thoughts are right. Some of them need a lot more thinking, but you don’t try to reason with a man who is trying to kill you, or else you will be dead, and violence will have won another victory over peace.
“You take that man who shot your husband, ma’am. He did it because he saw your husband as a threat to him, and when he tries to kill you, it will be for the same reason.
“Are you goin’ to let him do it?” – Exchange between Mary Breydon and Temple Boone in The Cherokee Trail by Louis L’Amour
She had been thinking a good deal about Temple Boone’s comments and had decided he was probably right. If civilization was to endure, those who believed in it must be prepared to strike back at the dark forces that would destroy it. Aside from that, she was Peg’s mother, and Peg’s mother had to live to ensure Peg of the education and the chance she would have. For that, she was willing to fight. – The Cherokee Trail by Louis L’Amour