What is Thunder in the Sun about?
In 1847, a group of fifty-two French Basques, including women and children, sets-out from Independence, Missouri to California. These settlers left Europe behind to escape the famine, unrest and aftermaths of the Napoleonic Wars. They bring with them their few belongings, customs and a few grapevines they hope to plant into the fertile Californian soil. They learn English on-the-fly from the younger men who speak it a little. In Independence, they purchase wagons, mules and provisions. They also hire a local trail master for a fee. The trail master, Lon Bennett, is skilled but he likes women and booze too much. When Lon Bennett learns that his Basques only have seven wagons he argues they should join a major wagon train of 20-30 wagons. Strength in numbers, no doubt, but large wagon trains could take weeks to assemble and the Basques cannot wait. Bennett tries to bail-out of his commitment but he already had spent the fee the Basques paid him by partying in the local hotel-saloon with women and friends. Having no choice, Bennett assembles the small wagon train. He is amazed at the Basques' particular customs, traditions, superstitions and morality. He tries to change some of their traditional habits arguing that in the Wild West safety is more important than customs and traditions. But the Basques are a proud and stubborn people and refuse to change their ways. As the wagon train heads West, Bennett becomes obsessed with Gabrielle Dauphin, the beautiful wife of the Basque leader. He repeatedly forces his attentions on her but she rejects him every time. Due to an unfortunate accident Gabrielle's husband is killed and many Basques want to return to Independence. Gabrielle Dauphin convinces them to continue toward California. The brother of her deceased husband becomes her protector and presumptive future husband, according to their customs. When the wagon train hits a desert, the scout advises the group to ration water and abandon their furniture and other useless belongings. Horses start to die of heat and thirst. A known water well in their path is dry. The scout advises to continue through the desert but Gabrielle wants to head toward the mountains, where water surely flows. Bennett is against this plan since the mountains are inhabited by Indians. However, the Basques decide to listen to Gabrielle and they all agree to head toward the mountains but not before Bennett and Gabrielle's new fiance, Pepe, have a fistfight among the sand dunes. The two men fight over Gabrielle. Bennett wins the fight but the Basques disarm him to make sure he's under control. In the mountains, they finally find water but they are spotted by Indians. Bennett is convinced the Indians will attack their wagon train during an ambush. Therefore, Bennett and the Basques come up with a daring plan. While the wagon train, loaded with the women, children and the elderly, continues its journey through the mountain pass, the men will execute a surprise attack against the unsuspecting Indians. They hope to distract the Indians' attention from the passing wagons. The Basques are fierce mountain fighters but the Indians outnumber them. Nevertheless, these settlers must fight for their dreams of California.