Cowboy Ghost

Cowboy Ghost

4.0 1
by Robert Newton Peck

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The ride of a lifetime!

The year is 1924 and the place is Florida's dusty and rugged "long" country. Sixteen-year-old Titus Timothy MacRobertson—"Tee"—can saddle up a wild mustang and round up stray beefs on his father's ranch with the best of them, but does he have what it takes to make it on a grueling cattle drive through the unpredictable


The ride of a lifetime!

The year is 1924 and the place is Florida's dusty and rugged "long" country. Sixteen-year-old Titus Timothy MacRobertson—"Tee"—can saddle up a wild mustang and round up stray beefs on his father's ranch with the best of them, but does he have what it takes to make it on a grueling cattle drive through the unpredictable Florida wilderness? Battered by a storm, then caught up in a roaring stampede, Tee is ripsawed by the raw edges of ranching. But he manages to hang proud—until fate lands one final blow, and Tee must find the courage to become the man no one but his brother, Micah, ever thought he could be.

2001 ALA Popular Paperback for YAs

01-02 Golden Sower Award Masterlist (YA Cat.) and 00-01 Tayshas High School Reading List

About the Author

Robert Newton Peck is the author of more than sixty books, including Horse Thief, Cowboy ghost, and A Day No Pigs Would Die. According to Newsweek, Mr. Peck "manages to evoke a sense of vanished America — when neighbors were neighborly, when food was home-cooked, and clothes and philosophy homespun." Raised on a farm, he is familiar with cattle, hogs, and horses. He lives with his wife, Sam, in Longwood, Florida, where he and a partner currently own eleven mustangs.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Book Review Service
A real page-turner!
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mighty flavorsome language just about disguises a predictable plot in this cowboy tale about the youngest son of a domineering Florida rancher who reaches manhood during an arduous cattle drive. Titus, 16, makes an energetic narrator, speaking in a 1920's ranchhand slang that is sometimes punctuated with off-color humor: "[Riding drag], I soon appreciated, is the absolute worst position to work at while pushing beef. The rear end of misery. Ranching's rectum." Unable to relate to his bitter, hyper-masculine widower father, Titus idolizes his ill-fated older brother, Micah. He also hears occasional words of wisdom from the ghost of the title, an undeveloped guardian angel figure who appears for the first time as some strange noises in the barn late at night, but within two or three days becomes "my old Cowboy Ghost." The characters are stock: a right feisty, devoted housekeeper "who sometimes had a temper that could spit upwind and bust a window"; a Chinese cook named Pan Tin (but called Tin Pan by the cowpokes), who "cooked tasty and smiled frequent"; a foreman who reminds ignorant newcomers that "it ain't a fault or a weakness to git born a yeller Chinaman. Or be a black." Not in the same league as Peck's A Day No Pigs Would Die or his Soup books, this novel nonetheless capably tours readers through a favorite fictional venue. Ages 12-up.
Children's Literature - Stacey Evers
A young man comes of age during a disastrous cattle drive that includes a stampede, an attack by Indians and the death of his older brother, Micah. Skinny Titus Timothy MacRobertson has grown up on Spur Box ranch in Florida without a mother and with an aloof and macho father who sees him only in the shadow of his brawny brother. Never one to skip a chance to prove himself, "Tee" jumps at the chance to accompany Micah and the ranch's cowhands over several hundred miles to deliver their cows to the stockyards in Homestead in south Florida. After Micah dies, Tee takes over the reins, making sure that the cattle get to Homestead, haggling over the sale price of the herd, and rewarding the crew for sticking with him. Upon his return to Spur Box, Titus confronts his father and establishes a new tone for their relationship. Peck's witty, thoughtful writing captures the tone and tenor of the early twentieth century without bogging down the story in extraneous detail.
To quote KLIATT's May 1999 review of the hardcover edition: This novel is about a cattle ranch in Florida in the 1920s, about a father and his sons. The ghost in the title is a bit misleading, because this is not a ghost story—the ghost that occasionally speaks to Otis (Tee) is revealed to be Tee himself as a grownup. Because Tee's mother died giving birth to him, Tee thinks his father doesn't acknowledge him much because he's angry that Tee caused the death of his beloved wife. Tee's much older, stronger brother Micah stands in most times as the parent Tee needs. Most of the action of this story takes place when Tee at 16 goes on his first cattle drive, with Micah in charge. During this coming-of-age trial, Tee shows himself and his world that he is capable of being a leader, of taking responsibility, of being a man. Peck's style is unique, as you know from his prize-winning A Day No Pigs Would Die. Sometimes it is close to poetry. Sometimes his style is earthy and direct: "tighter than a bull's ass in fly time." Sometimes the dialogue is nearly obscure, I presume in the Florida cowboy tradition. The huge emotional scenes are tempered by stoical reticence, which makes them all the more powerful. Still, Peck won't get through to every reader. Librarians will need to introduce the story and sell it to potential readers. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 1999, HarperTrophy, 202p, 18cm, 98-34915, $4.95. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; July 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 4)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-This is the story of 16-year-old Titus MacRobertson's growth into manhood during a cattle drive in early 20th-century Florida. Along the way, the boy and his cow-puncher mates struggle against attacks by Seminole Indians and cattle thieves, horrendous weather, and the difficult conditions and hard work required to drive 500 steer several hundred miles through the wilderness. Readers will be entertained by the way Peck portrays the cowboy lifestyle, including his liberal use of folksy, country jargon. There is plenty of action, but the novel also has its sensitive side as when Titus deals with his older brother's death and learns of the darker side of his family and its lasting effects. The teen's transformation from cook's helper to leader of the cattle drive might be a little too abrupt, but it does not significantly detract from a good story.-William C. Schadt, Glacier Park Middle School, Maple Valley, WA
Kirkus Reviews
A disastrous cattle drive turns a boy into a man in this ripsnorter, set in Florida where, Peck (Soup Ahoy, 1994, etc.) avers, "the American cowboy originated."

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.52(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Micah tossed me a coiled rope.

"Tee," he told me, "shake out a loop. Seeing as today's your sixteenth birthday, Father is bound to start looking your way." His face sobered to serious. "And expecting."

In my fingers, a rope had seldom felt friendly. Only harsh and hairy. Yet I pulled a hoop, holding the double-back in my right hand, the main coil inside my left. I'd growed up around ropes. Seen 'em work. And heard many a straining lariat buzzing along fence wood.

"Face him, Tee."

A gray mustang and I were the only two beings with our feet on the ground. And inside. My brother and a dozen of our cowhandlers sat on the circular corral's top rail, pointing at me with ragged knees and the scuffed-up toes of their boots.

Instead of tack, the gray wore the disagreeable ear-back expression of a unbroke critter, a horse fixing to break a man.

"Stare his eyes," Micah said, "like you don't need a rope. As if you'd hanker to grab his head, gnaw his ear, and force him down to yielding."

For years, I had watched this stunt performed by Micah, by old Vinegar Swinton, probable our ablest hand, or by our foreman, Mr. Ornell Hopple. But never by me.

"Be his boss," Spider yelled. "Conquer that cusser."

Earlier, I'd suspected that today might be troubling. At breakfast, Mrs. Krickitt had warned that a bit of bother was up, about to snort my way. "Your initiation," she told me. "Be grateful that himself is out of town, at the Cattleman's Whoop-De-Doo in Naples, and won't be squinting his sullen silence at you. Or spitting, if you fail."

The gray was a new-growed mustang, a gypsy stud recent captured on our Spur Boxrange. And raw. Never yet knowed a saddle, bridle, or oats. Rangy. Ready to rid himself of me, a rope, or any human devil with the gumption to challenge his liberty or his stallionhood.

"Go him slow, Tee." It was my brother's steadying voice. "I done this when I turned sixteen. So can you."

My teeth clenched.

Didn't Micah know how sturdy he got built, and what a skinny bag of twigs I was? He'd always resembled the first six feet of an oak tree. A stout one. As massive a man as Father. Our neighbors usual remarked, "Micah is Rob Roy MacRobertson all over again."

But they were so wrong.

Right now, however, observations wouldn't be delivering me through today's baptismal. It had to be brains and bowels, pulling in tandem, like our yoke of Holstein oxen.

"Eye down the horse," I told myself. Make it a will of master over beast. All my life, I'd heard this wisp of wisdom around the bunkhouse, often sung to the wailing wheeze of Bug Eye's harmonica. Before I could talk (Mrs. Krickitt had informed me), Vinegar Swinton had stuffed a rope in my fingers. Spout had planted my butt to the back of a horse. And later, Hoofrot had showed me how to fasten a slipknot, or a belly cincher.

Now they were all watching, ready to root for me because I was a MacRobertson, and Spur Box was home. Their only children had been Micah and me.

"Soft now," Micah was saying. "Don't be hurrying at him. Just let that sunfisher know who's a raw and who's a rider."

Could I do it?

A simple chore, accomplished every workday morning six times a week by a ranch hand. Before it's even daybreak, he has to rope an unwilling horse, an animal half-wild, a stringer hostile to punch work. All of the men now watching, except for Micah, began every sweating wage day with a primal act.

Now, it was my turn.

The mustang stood his ground inside the roomy corral, noticing my slow advance, seeming not impressed by a gangle of a lad who weighed half the heft of his bull of a brother.

As the gray snorted, I said, "Easy," trying to sound the smooth way Mr. Ornell Hopple, our ramrod, always sounded to me. Like he gargled with cream. Mr. Hop was a small man, weighing only a few pounds more than I did. Short. Slight of build and body. Eyes of gentle blue, the benevolent color you find in small patches on a very old bedroom quilt. Yet he was certain a top hand.

Wearing no iron and raising a unshod hoof, the gray broomtail pawed Florida, creating dark holes to freckle the surrounding sunbaked tan of the sand.

"Horse," I said, "my name is Titus Timothy MacRobertson, and my family owns the land you're standing on. What's more, I'm fixing to roll a hoop on that handsome head of yours. Know why? Because you can't do a dang thing about it."

Advancing on the gray, I could hear what Spider had lectured me. "Don't swing a lasso to a animal unless need be. Waste of energy. Oh, and never hasten. Mosey. Ya saunter at a horse, close as courting, and then, if you git comfortable lucky, you might ease a noose over his ornery head."

"What happens next?" I'd asked.

"Next?" Hacking out a laugh, Spider scratched his six-foot-six person. "Next, once he awares a rope to his gullet, you git your unlucky ass prepared to visit Hell."

In front of me stood a four-legged Satan, raw and red eyed, a unbroke outlaw who didn't plan to leg it lenient with even my father, Mr. Mac. However, with almost everyone on Spur Box creasing their Sunday butts on the upper rail (except for Father and Mrs. Krickitt), I wouldn't back off or hightail run. It was time to swallow my dose of dismal.

A second after the stallion lowered his head, then tossed it high again, I whipped my rope at him. Not so unlucky a throw. The loop circled fat, floated, then settled around the gray's neck. Neither of us knew quite what to do next.

"Yahoo!" one of our cowhands honked.

It certain did not help.

Cowboy Ghost. Copyright � by Robert Peck. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Cowboy Ghost 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There is a boy who turns old enough to start working on the ranch. They have a lot of ranch hands so he doesn¿t get to do much because he id the smallest. He tries to break a horse but has problems and figures out that it is harder than it looks. I didn¿t liked how all the ranch hands made up names like Tin Pan. It made the book hard to under stand because there are so many ranch hands. It also made the book hard to understand when the ranch hands use there made up words. I liked how the main character was trying to break a horse and I have broke a horse before. I think it would be neat to work on a ranch so I made me want to read more since I could learn some things. This book reminds me of western movies because they all take place on a big ranch or on cattle drives. This book is for you if you like the outdoors and want some adventure in you¿re books. There are also some funny parts because the cow hands like to pick on each other.