Candy Moulton: Reading the West 8-1-11
Parker Smith and Joe Dan Peters are 14-year-old cowboys and best friends, out of school for summer break and looking for adventure in the New Mexico ranch country where they live.
This book for young adult readers ought to be titled “Parker’s Summer Adventures” because it truly is a story of a teen-aged ranch boy who spends his days riding, working cattle, competing in the Fourth of July Rodeo, swimming with his friend Joe Dan, visiting an old cowboy in a line shack and sharing chicken fried steak.
True, the book starts with young Parker first seeing a new colt that will be his to train, and true, the book ends with a reference to the colt, but nothing between those two scenes ties the colt to the story. That’s not to say this is not a book that young readers won’t enjoy. To the contrary, it has enough action to suit most readers, and is clearly told by someone who knows and understands cowboy/ranch lifestyle, right down to how ranchmen and boys dress to go to town.
Parker’s summer begins with the birth of the colt, but he spends most of his time working on the ranch, fixing fence, branding calves, doctoring sick cattle, and moving the herd from one pasture to another. Along the way he and Joe Dan find time to go on a search for Indian relics, compete in the ribbon roping at the Fourth of July Rodeo (where they end up with the top two times thanks to a very fast running young girl). One of them wins the competition and a trophy buckle.
There’s a bit of danger, as is often the case on a ranch, when Parker’s dad ropes a coyote and as a result is separated from his horse.
Although the characters are the same throughout, this book does not read like a novel to me, but rather as a collection of short episodes in the lives of young ranch boys.
Zimmer is the author of several other books including “For Good or Bad, People of the Cimarron Country,” “Cowboy Days: Stories of the New Mexico Range,” and “Western Animal Heroes, An Anthology of Stories by Ernest Thompson Seton.” Those books and “Parker’s Colt” are all published by Sunstone Press.
The ranch scenes are authentic, no doubt in part because the author lives in New Mexico where he raises and trains registered Quarter Horses. Oh, yes, he has two sons: Parker and Marshall.
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This the first in a six-part series of articles covering basic water law in the United States, predominately in the western part of the country, and how it affects this finite resource.