Candy Moulton: Reading the West 10-8-12
When teenager Will Merritt meets Wild Bill Hickok in Abilene, Kan., in 1871, he is pretty sure one of the most exciting things in his life has happened, though he has to admit that he’s quite surprised to have his father invite the gunman who has come to serve as marshal of the town, home for dinner. Will is pretty sure his prim-and-proper mother is not going to like serving a gunman.
But when Hickok arrives for the meal, Will realizes his mother can hold her own, pretty much because she has to since his father is unexpectedly late to return home.
Will and his buddy Jasper are interested in Wild Bill’s tales, but they are more interested in the cattle trade and race down to the river with all the other townspeople when the first herd of the year arrives and crosses a storm-swollen stream. The two boys idolize the cowboys who bring the herds north, and are constantly drawn to Texastown, the rough-and-tumble part of Abilene.
They despise the settlers just as equally as they admire the cowboys. But then Will’s world is turned upside down all because of a settler girl, Anna, who inexplicably draws him in.
As if Will’s life is not confused enough (after all his best friend Jasper would not like the idea of Will giving Anna and her younger siblings a share of the candy a wild cowboy bought for him), his father reveals to him something that will forever change the landscape of the prairie around Abilene, potentially pit the family against not only Will’s best friend Jaspar, but potentially the entire town.
e_SDLqWide Open” is a fast-paced novel that will capture and hold your attention. It has the action of cowboys in Texastown and settlers on the plains, all mixed up together just like the boy who is becoming a man.
Author Larry Bjornson has taken history and turned it into a great story. ❖
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