A gritty tale of fraud and reinvention in the Old West.
A vivid imagining of a transitional stage in the life of a man who dedicated much of that life to covering his tracks... Paradox abounds in the Will James story: in thrall to an idea of freedom that was already outmoded, spending most of his adult life riven with guilt over how he had repudiated his roots, his fear of what his devoted mother must have been going through a crippling constant. It begs a question: Can a life like James’s even happen in the 21st century?
When he is writing about wild creatures, Dufault has a knack for taking readers inside their heads.
Big Moose Tim neglected to mention that he earned more than two dollars a day, same as the lead hand and double the pay of the fifteen or so crew breaking their backs wrangling ornery cattle from sunup to sundown before riding back to camp, where, sure as rain would fall, they’d be greeted by an earful of insults and invective as they guzzled down the often inedible contents of their lunch pails and broke their teeth on biscuits even harder than the lot of the cowpuncher.
But maybe he just wasn’t in tight enough with the foreman for him to be able to stay. They’d clashed a few times during the season. Riordan, like most ranchers, liked keeping a few men on for the hard work of December through February. Come spring, when it was time to ride out after the yearlings, older calves, and emaciated livestock, all hands were welcome. Every cowpuncher was standing by, itching to get to work and wasting no time doing so.
As they drew nearer to Fallon, Will decided to be polite and take a look, but the spectacle didn’t interest him. The country was becoming more and more flat. A salty, limestone flatness that Will wouldn’t want to find himself in under the best of circumstances — even with a top-notch saddle horse and a packhorse behind him carrying gallons of water. The hills were now too small to be properly called mountains and seemed to be miles away; they were thin bands on a distant horizon. The car drove on, and for a few dozen miles they didn’t see a trace of green — until, like a magic spell, the artificial oasis of Fallon appeared, making the men forget all about the miles of desert they had traversed.
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