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Children's LiteratureRed-haired and gaunt, tall Thomas is a Texas cowboy on his way home after a trail drive, all money spent. "Riding the grub line" means stopping at ranch houses along the way and doing whatever work needs to be done in exchange for food and a bed for the night. Accompanied by a gray wolf and a jackrabbit, Thomas rides through barren country, doing his best at each tiresome job and encountering critters like a roadrunner, a turkey vulture, and even pack rats and a giant rattlesnake at the most disgusting task, shoveling out a well. With great relief he reaches the border of Texas (greeted by an armadillo and a cactus) and a ranch where he's taken on for the winter, happy at last to be offered "beans, bacon, and coffee three times a day, no roof, no bed" and no company, either, except his horse. That suits veteran cowboy Thomas just fine. Rice, a Texan, has written and illustrated many books set in Texas, New Orleans, and other venues in the South. Kids will enjoy the humorous watercolors with the exaggeration of a tall tale (funniest is the sight of the jackrabbit chasing the wolf), while learning something about the life of a real cowboy and the wildlife of the Southwest. 2004, Pelican, Ages 4 to 8.
—Barbara L. Talcroft