From the cowboy-journalist author of the superb To Be a Man (1967)--a fine contemporary Western, pungent and satisfying,...



From the cowboy-journalist author of the superb To Be a Man (1967)--a fine contemporary Western, pungent and satisfying, chockablock with detail about modern cattleraising and meat-packaging. Set in 1964 Arizona, the story begins when 15 yearlings from the Rocking R Ranch herd are found by the sheriff--with their brands crudely altered--and returned to foreman Sam Howard. Sam hadn't even known the yearlings were missing--and why was someone trying to rustle yearlings? The mystery deepens as Sam considers the ranch's layout and can't figure a single boundary location where the cattle might have been rustled. So he decides to hold a roundup and count his herd to see how many head are gone. While the big roundup is underway, Sam's boss Spencer Butterfield, a wise old rancher whose larger holding is a ranch in California, arrives to oversee the unraveling of the mystery. And Decker quickly plunges the reader into the daily nitty-gritty of the roundup and the lives of the hands, a diverse bunch of young johnnies, old salts, ex-criminals, and out-of-work rodeo riders. Some of this detail may at first seem digressive; but even a long chapter on the Genco meatpacking company's methods--fattening yearlings by day-and-night force feeding, then slaughtering them at the exact ounce that the computer says is perfect for the market--turns out to be absolutely relevant. Genco has been taken over by the Mafia, which is now into rustling (!) and fattening up yearlings, and it is Spencer Butterfield himself who is trying to plant his own ""rustled"" yearlings in the Genco pens and then have the company raided by the law. But all goes haywire. . . . Decent plotting and cleanly etched characters, backed by a rich evocation of A Week in the Life of a Cattle Foreman; forget those Marlboro ads--this is the real thing.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 1979


Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1979