DIXIE IN THE BIG PASTURE by Belinda Hurmence
Kirkus Star


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The author of Tough Tiffany (1980, o.p.) re-creates her own family history to depict Oklahoma homesteaders. Dixie Watson's father, a revenuer, takes a year's leave in 1907 to try farming on the prairie. The Watsons' acres adjoin Kiowa land; much of the story concerns 13-year-old Dixie's tentative friendship with a thoughtful, unusually intelligent Kiowa boy, John Three Sixteen (his name refers to a biblical verse). Mrs. Watson -- conventional, unyielding, fearful -- forbids any acquaintance with Indians (her sudden turnaround after they call on her medical skills is one of the few unlikely particulars here). But Dixie's readiness to like and admire John Three is reinforced by knowing she's the inadvertent cause of his losing his pony: Needing money for food, John Three's father sold it to Mr. Watson, who gave it to Dixie. Hurmence's descriptions are fresh, her narrative lively with events recounted in singularly authentic detail (a prairie fire; a brother's going to college; the consequences of building an over-spacious house). The authenticity extends to attitudes toward Native Americans, but the slurs are set firmly in context and balanced by positive portrayals. Dixie is especially well realized, while other characters seem to offer glimpses of fully dimensional people. The same might be said of the book: More a string of incidents than a tightly plotted story, it's a splendid evocation of a setting peopled with characters whose lives and unresolved problems extend tantalizingly beyond its boundaries. Afterword.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1994
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Clarion