The Last Long Drive

18 05 2013

“As he turned the star shaped rowel over in his hands, See Bird felt a knot form in his stomach. Someone had tampered with his mount. He knew that, from this moment, he would be backing down no more. He could take personal insults. He had of all his life. But his instinctive sense of fair play had been violated, and besides that, he could not abide someone who would deliberately hurt a trusting animal.”

Karl L. Stewart, The Legend of See Bird: The Last Long Drive  (Publisher Page, Terra Alta, WV: 2012)

Stewart has submitted to the marketplace of ideas a good, old-fashioned, Saturday-matinee western. This 21st-century telling is more realistic than too many of those of yesteryear, but it still possesses the mythos that has, for decades, characterized tales of the 19th-century American West.

The copy editing isn’t perfect, but that’s easy to ignore. The writing is as sturdy and straightforward as the stereotypical Texas cattleman. Here’s a sample or two.

“And while, to some, it may have seemed a picturesque or romantic enterprise, to the young men riding herd in the one hundred degree Texas blast furnace, the long drive was often tedium itself. Ten to twelve hours in the saddle, loafing along, not really driving the herd so much as following it, eating as much dust as beans – this was their job. And all for a pay day at some Kansas cow town followed by a night or two of debauchery before heading back to the ranch once again, only to birth and brand and roundup yet another herd the following year. This is what the cowboy lived for, and by and large, he wouldn’t have traded it for any other life he could imagine.”

“As See Bird rode the perimeter of the peacefully bedded herd, the distant howl of a wolf carried with it a sense of peace to his soul that he had seldom felt in his years of cowboying. The Milky Way, another trail, draped itself across the night sky. He reined in his horse and sat silently for a few moments, letting the prairie night work its magic on him. Back when See Bird was a child, his Sunday School teacher, Miss Tarkenton, taught him all about the Garden of Eden. Adam walking with God, he thought, could not have been closer to his creator than See Bird felt this night. I may not even own the horse I ride, he thought. But then why do I feel like the richest man in the world? Unable to answer his own question, he nudged his horse forward and resumed his watch. Somewhere across the herd a clear cowboy tenor was singing something sad about a town called Laredo.”

Some books make one wish he could give the paper back to the tree. This one’s no waste of resources, or of the reader’s time.

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