Dust Devils: (A Novella)

Overview

The rugged mountains and deserts of eastern California and northern Nevada in the early years of the century are the setting of this moving coming-of-age novella. Ira Hamilton, the teen-age son of rugged Indian-hating rancher John D. Hamilton, wins the bronc-riding competition at a local rodeo and comes away with a special prize - a beautiful, pure-blooded Arabian colt. But the horse is soon stolen by Hawkeye, a notorious local rustler. Accompanied by Cricket, a young Paiute who has been his closest companion ...
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Overview

The rugged mountains and deserts of eastern California and northern Nevada in the early years of the century are the setting of this moving coming-of-age novella. Ira Hamilton, the teen-age son of rugged Indian-hating rancher John D. Hamilton, wins the bronc-riding competition at a local rodeo and comes away with a special prize - a beautiful, pure-blooded Arabian colt. But the horse is soon stolen by Hawkeye, a notorious local rustler. Accompanied by Cricket, a young Paiute who has been his closest companion since infancy, Ira vows to retrieve his prize. His efforts pit him against the merciless expanses of the Black Rock Desert and the wrath of Hawkeye and his gang. On the way, Ira must find the courage to overcome the challenges of nature and outlaw, and to love the woman of his choice. He must, in short, become a man.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Steeped in the culture of Basque-Americans and the Western states where they reside, Laxalt (Sweet Promised Land; The Basque Hotel) has produced 13 books set in his native Nevada. This surprisingly thin and textureless account of cowboy Ira Hamilton's coming of age in the early-20th-century Eastern Sierras focuses not on the Basque communities but on the tribes of Paiutes who lived in the stark and lonely hills. Motherless since birth and partly raised in the family of Paiute chief Black Rock Tom, Ira is best friends with Tom's son Cricket and eventually falls in love with Tom's daughter Thoma. The match spells trouble on the Hamilton ranch, since bellicose Mr. Hamilton, who is convinced of the superiority of the white man, wants Ira to marry the daughter of a neighboring rancher. When Ira and Cricket ride off in pursuit of the rustlers who stole Ira's prize Arabian pony, there can be no doubt that Ira has earned the right to choose his own mate. In underscoring his theme of racial tension, Laxalt draws thick, simple battle lines between father and son, old and new: his younger generation is all Disney innocence, Mr. Hamilton pure flint. Although Laxalt's prose is as beautiful as ever, plot rather than character sustains this predictable novella, which might be suitable for YA readers, though even that audience may feel it lacks emotional intricacy. (Oct.)
VOYA - Kevin Beach
This thin Western, written by a Nevada historian familiar with the authentic cowboy culture and ethnicity of the old West, is part of the Western Literature series intended to preserve the literary flavor of the region. In this novella, a teen named Ira has grown up in both the white and Native American (Paiute) cultures. Ira's mother died in childbirth and his father is a tough customer who hates and fears the Native Americans, even though his son was raised by a Native American woman. Ira's Native American family includes his best friend, Cricket, and his girlfriend, Thoma. Ira's father is a firm believer that the white man has earned his dominion over the natives in the old West, and this conviction saddens Ira. The story revolves around the annual Fourth of July rodeo and a prize horse for the winner of the bronco riding contest. Detailed descriptions of boots, saddles, and rodeo moves give the book its authentic edge. Of course Ira wins the beautiful Arabian horse only to have it stolen by a mean rustler named Hawkeye. Ira then sets out across the desert and high country to track and recover his horse and prove his manhood. After dehydration, delirium, a gunshot wound, and a passionate encounter on a rabbit-skin blanket, Ira prepares for the climactic showdown at the rustlers' hidden ranch. All ends well with a wedding and the father's change of heart. This interesting, yet somewhat predictable story captures the macho spirit of the traditional western and mixes it with some modern teen angst. Recommended for die-hard western lovers, reluctant readers might also enjoy this book. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Kirkus Reviews
From Nevada author Laxalt (The Basque Hotel, 1989), a coming- of-age story, part of the publisher's Western Literature Series, this time about the American frontier early this century.

Sierraville (14 buildings!), in Heavenly Valley, has an auto shop for newfangled Model T Fords and a gallows still in place for rustlers and rapists—who get caught. Young Ira Hamilton, son of Indian-hating John D. Hamilton, comes to town with his best friend Cricket, a Paiute, to enter the Fourth of July's rodeo bronco- busting contest. Ira and Cricket, it turns out, were suckled at the same breast when Ira's mother died in childbirth, a fact John D. has regretted ever since. Ira has been accepted among the Paiute and trained by Cricket in the Indian's hunting arts and warrior skills. As it happens, with Cricket's help, Ira now survives a supremely exciting airborne mauling by Thunder, a Mustang, and wins a pure-blooded Arabian colt—but it won't be his for long. The notorious gallows' bait, sidewinder and rustler Hawkeye, a thin- lipped study in black garb, steals the colt, and Ira and Cricket set out in pursuit. Meanwhile, the question remains whether Ira will someday marry Molly, the budding daughter of a prosperous rancher, or Thoma, Cricket's glorious young sister, a mating not only already consummated but approved by Cricket's father Black Rock Tom, the leader of the Paiute. The boys track Hawkeye across the Black Rock Desert, along the Emigrant trail littered with debris of pioneers, and through the long valley that at last leads to the immensely huge city of Winnebucco, where nearly a thousand people live and where they finally come face to face with Hawkeye. Will Indian savvy win the day?

A tight little story, and superbly American as well.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780874173000
  • Publisher: University of Nevada Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1997
  • Series: Western Literature Series
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 991,438
  • Lexile: 1130L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.30 (d)

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