Reading the West 9-6-10
“The Littlest Wrangler” by J. R. Sanders with illustrations by Vin Libassi is based on the classic cowboy song, “Little Joe the Wrangler.” In this version, Joe Monday is an orphan living in New York who comes to the West on an orphan train. Arriving in Kansas City, he is “adopted” by a grimy, gruff man, Mr. Grubb, and taken on to Texas where Joe labors hard, lives in a chicken coop, and has barely enough food to sustain him.
When the boy, riding an equally ill-kept horse, encounters a trail herd headed north on the Chisholm Trail, he joins the outfit, working even harder than he had for the Grubbs, and taking plenty of guff from the cowboys. But he has plenty to eat, and time to make friend with an outlaw horse, Blue Rocket.
As in the song, the herd stampedes, and Little Joe jumps on Blue Rocket to help turn the herd. This story, though, has a different ending than the song.
Although simplistically told, this is a fine story for young readers, or for parents to share with youngsters.
Tim Tingle and Doc Moore bring you “More Spooky Texas Tales” in their newest collection from Texas Tech Univeristy Press. They dish up the story of a fussy brother and sister who meet an old woman and her ghostly children on a river bank in San Antonio in “La Llorona at Mission Concepcion.” Two sisters ignore all warnings nad follow the beat of a mysterious drum in “The Gypsy Drum” and there is a runaway, a deserted mansion and a thunderstorm in “Two Graves” a story in which, obviously, the house is haunted.
These stories are not new. In fact Tingle and Moore heard many of them from students. But these are their versions of some of Texas’s great ghost stories.
Like all ghost stories, these are (or can be) scary with blood and gore, beasts you don’t recognize, and eerie happenings. The story of Catfish and Owl comes from the Choctaws of Oklahoma, and is arguably the best story in the book, and one that imparts an important message.
I think this book would particularly appeal to teenagers who are sitting around in the dark telling stories and trying to scare each other.
Judy Buffington Sammons discourses on “Early-Day Justice on Colorado’s Western Slope” in her new book, “Keepin’ the Peace” just released from Western Reflections Publishing. There are tales of “Neck Tie Parties,” and the Telluride bank robbery, of the “Band Men of Brown’s Park” and the marshals of Tin Cup.
And if you want a little romance, Bethany House has released “The Vigilante’s Bride,” a title set in 1880s Montana Territory where folks formed vigilance committees to protect themselves, their ranches, and their cattle herds. As with all Bethany House publications, there is a strong Christian message in this book.