For fiction about the West of its early white settlers, it seems to me that Larry McMurty and Cormac McCarthy are the only writers visible. Wallace Stegner (1909-93) is commemorated with a prize at the Uniersity of Utah and a fellowship at Stanford, but his books seem to have dropped from sight or discussion.
A. B. Guthrie, Jr. (1901-91) won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his 1949 novel The Way West (the second volume of a trilogy that began with the 1948 The Big Sky) and his screenplay for “Shane” (1953) was Oscar-nominated. I think that his 1960 collection, The Big It and Other Stories provides a good introduction, though I think that The Big Sky is a great book.
None of the stories was first published in the New Yorker, though IMHO three have the common failing of New Yorker stories in not sticking landings (satisfactory endings): Old Mother Hubbard, Last Snake, and The Fourth at Getup. They are not (IMO) devoid of values… and there are ten other stories in the collection “The Big It” is the shortest, but not (IMO) the best. It is an ironic out-take from These Thousand Hills (1956), the third of the novels in the “westward ho!” trilogy.
Four of the stories first appeared in Esquire and one (Mountain Medicine) in The Saturday Evening Post (the magazine that paid the most for fiction in the middle of the last century. One that was too dark for commercial publishers, “Ebbie,” appeared in a literary (no-pay) magazine (the Southwest Review).
The 2012 University of Nebraska Press reprinting of the collection has a useful and discerning introduction by Dayton Duncan (Scenes of Visionary Enchantment et al.), who champions the stories set in the fictional Moon Dance as being as good as Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. Both show the spitefulness and busy-bodiness of small towns.
Standouts include “First Principal” based on the baptism by fire (well, fists) of the bookish A.B. Guthrie, Sr. in Choteau in Montana Territory and “Bargain,” a cautionary tale about the dangers of illiteracy. “Mountain Medicine” is set back in the opening-of-the-west/”mountain men” era and also involves foolishness leading to deadly disaster (and to the survival of the plucky). Two tales told by an old-timer are notably funny: my favorite is “The Moon Dance Skunk” (with a great punch-line). In contrast, the humor in “The Therefore Hog” seems a bit forced to me (though still funny). I would not say that of “The Keeper of the Key,” though it seems a tad stretched out to me. And one story that had not been published before, “The Wreck,” has a punch-line, though it is a tragedy rather than a comedy.
One thing that irritated me about the University of Nebraska Press’ 2012 reprinting is that the table of contents is placed after both Guthrie’s foreword and Dayton Dunan’s introduction.