“The Fear That Walks by the Noonday” August Reminder • Willa Cather Short Story Project

This month’s story for the Willa Cather Short Story Project is “The Fear That Walks by the Noonday.” This story appeared in The Sombrero, an 1895 University of Nebraska year book.

You can read the story on the Willa Cather Archive (WCA) here — The Fear That Walks by the Noonday.

I was surprised when I clicked over to the WCA to see Dorothy Canfield’s name next to Cather’s as cowriter. Dorothy Canfield Fisher would also go on to become both a popular and influential writer and activist. Check out a brief bio here on Goodreads. Some of her works are available at Project Gutenberg.

Apparently Canfield had the idea for the story and Cather wrote it. Here’s Canfield’s memory about the story, as quoted in James Woodress’s Willa Cather: A Literary Life:

 “At a football game where we happened to be on the same grandstand, I gave her the idea of a football story—of all things! A fancy that had just occurred to me. She wrote the story, and very generously, I thought, put my name with hers as if I had helped write her story although I would have been perfectly incapable of that at that age. The story got a prize, $10.00—all of that! She gave me half of it. I thought it was generosity itself and still do” (83).

That $10 in 1895 is a little over $300 today.

The story is about a football team and involves a ghost. Can’t wait to dive in!

What’s next?

Read “The Fear that Walks in Noonday” sometime this month and then come back to discuss it on the response post I’ll share on August 25th, the fourth Wednesday of the month. Or, feel free to read it now and comment here if you can’t wait until then!

New to this blog? Learn more about the Willa Cather Short Story Project here. In a nutshell, we’re reading one Cather short story a month. I remind everyone of what story we’re reading on the second Wednesday of the month and then share a response on the fourth Wednesday of the month. Jump in anytime!


  1. While it is clear that the “Ghost of Morrison” chilled the air so brutally that the Marathon men couldn’t perform, Freddie Horton, with his knowledge of the Greeks, nearly broke the strange curse but failed at the goal line. It was Reggie who finally admitted the power of his opponent at dinner and was brave enough to fight. The use of a stereotype, the superstitious Black waiter, confirmed the presence of their former athletic opponent. Superstition or Supernatural, it is an interesting ‘Ghost Story.’

    And yes, what a show of character for Cather to share her $10 prize money!

      • I don’t have an answer. It seemed that McKinley was stalked by tragedy, with both of his daughters dying and his wife’s poor health. Yet, he also had a career of successes, in the military, in his civilian life, and surprisingly, in politics. Then, tragedy struck him in the form of assassination, and although he lived for a while and doctors reported, either falsely or in ignorance, that he would recover, he died, at perhaps the peak of his popularity. Are there clues in his life that explain Cather’s reference to McKinley at the close of her story…near achievement with loss at the finish line, the overwhelming power of death, …I don’t know. She must have had a reason other than simply dating the event. Do you see the purpose, Chris?

        • I’ve been thinking that McKinley’s presidency and assassination are years after this story was written. It seems odd that a western college guy would be all that aware of state politics in Ohio, but maybe politics were as volatile then as now so younger people paid more attention? Or maybe it’s just big news that let’s him shake off what just happened. Especially in light of his being “the product of centuries of democratic faith and tradition.” The superstition of ghosts, which he just experienced as real, is replaced by faith in the electoral process? It’s such an odd ending. I wonder if it was an inside joke.

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