LIN MCLEAN...WE ARE TOLD THAT A COPY OF THIS NOVEL COULD BE FOUND IN ALMOST ANY BUNKHOUSE ACROSS THE WEST IN THE FIRST DECADE OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY! 306 PAGES IN PRINT! A GOOD READ!
Our cowboy hero comes along with a boyish charm and natural nobility. Though he comes from Eastern stock, he's a son of the plains, a man of homespun character, mostly unschooled, but both fiercely egalitarian and gentlemanly. An excellent horseman, good with a gun, handsome and gallant in his courtship of women, he is respected by all. Generous to a fault, he also takes under his wing a boy who has run away from a home that we'd describe today as thoroughly dysfunctional.
This story is a series of short stories strung together into a novel! Wister's book is really a romance in a Western setting - the open range and frontier towns of Wyoming in the 1880s, an era already regarded as long past, just a decade later at the time of Wister's writing. There are no gunfights or outlaws. While the book is chiefly a portrayal of an admirable young man, its storyline has to do with the winning of a young woman's hand - two women, actually, each of whom betrays him, one for lack of principle and the other for principles too highly refined.
Altogether, the book is an enjoyable and entertaining read that, besides its occasional quaintness, is fully enjoyable. Wister has a gift for both humor and poignancy, and while the realities of cowboying, homesteading, and working with cattle hardly get a mention, his depiction of the Old West ranges easily from farce to sentiment to the starkly grim. McLean's visit to Denver at Christmas suggests something of Dickens' London, and the account of a funeral comes as close as anything to black humor.
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