A portrait of a Colorado valley and, more to the point, of its wealthy owners. Novelist Evans (Bluefeather Fellini in the Sacred Realm, 1994) joins a tradition of western writers—John Culley, Robert Glass Cleland, Joseph Wood Krutch, Tom Lea, even Wallace Stegner—who have penned rah-rah biographies of prominent regional business people. In this case, the entrepreneur in question is Charles Leavell, a Texan who made his fortune selling to the federal government various implements of the Cold War, including nuclear reactors scattered across the countryside, from Connecticut to California. With the proceeds, he bought a big chunk of southwestern Colorado, an area of ``lush, fertile soil surrounded on three sides by massive mountains'' that had once been home to innumerable Ute Indians and smallholder farmers. No more, of course, but no matter; in Evans's eyes, ``the 4UR [ranch] aura moves on in the best of caring hands,'' outsiders' hands though they may be (and by many Coloradans' lights, Texans are the ultimate outsiders). Evans's tone is celebratory throughout, in the manner of a college yearbook: ``Charles has made an art form of fun, absorbing great joy from art and business, trout fishing and grand outdoor and indoor feasts, or just having a quiet visit with a close friend.'' His narrative, too, often bogs down in insignificant episodes that doubtless mean much to the Leavell family but fail to inspire the reader—for instance, a glancing account of a visit by the famed cook and author Julia Child, who gorged herself on fried chicken and hamburgers while taking in local fly-fishing spots. It would have been more significant to point out that, like so many other once-working ranches in the Southwest, the 4UR is now a tourist destination, appealing to deep-pocketed visitors from afar. Little bits and pieces of southwestern history, regional and local, keep this account from degenerating into a mere family scrapbook—but only by a hair.
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