What would it be like to have money for necessities again? Could a cattle drive be the answer? Douglas Dorword is the oldest in his family, and at fifteen, he jumps at the chance to go along with Mr. Sam Silas's men on a round-up and trail drive. Jobs aren't easy to come by in post-Civil War Texas, and the cattle drive seems like an adventure in the making-one that pays thirty cents a day. The youngest of Silas's men, he is soon christened with a new name-"Duster"-and opens a new chapter in his life.
Unsure of what to expect, he befriends a young Mexican hand, Jesus, who gives him some insight into how to survive the grueling days. When they are kidnapped, the adventure of the drive turns deadly. Duster's fate hinges on the rescue he's sure will never come. Becoming a man was never so hard, but giving up is not in him. He and Jesus are determined to go down fighting. Will help come for them-or will it be seconds too late?
Set in Texas after the Civil War, this is an unpretentious, leisurely western about a callow young rancher's first cattle drive. Though discursive and overlong, Duster creeps up on the reader's affections, and the story ends in a violent, gripping climax. Especially effective are Duster's encounters with bandits, traders and farmers, and his droll accounts of his many foolish predicaments. The author's sympathies for Mexicans and "gringos," as well as for both experience and youth, are gracefully balanced; but it's his knowledge of the country and ranching life that distinguish the book.