Eight tightly stitched tales, reaffirming Pulitzer-winning Richter's mastery of Americana in the Far West, especially the New Mexico territory. Six of these first appeared in The Saturday Evening Post and reflect the Post's demand for formula climaxes and clear development, but they have a surface as rich as Faulkner's despite the lack of a deeper tragic sound. Readers familiar with Richter's great trilogy The Awakening Land will find its first seeds sprouting in these early stories. Above all, read--better yet, read aloud--the title story. These are the deathbed recollections of an Ohio nonagenarian who went West when ""the trees stood one agin the other all the way from Pennsylvania to the great English Lakes and the New Orleans River. . .""--drunken weddings, reluctant bridegrooms, Portius the Hermit. ""Smoke Over the Prairie"" tells of a New Mexico town's rich storekeeper fighting the railroad which will kill his business as an importer--but his daughter elopes with the railroad's chief engineer. And six more almost as fine-a vast rude empire crawling with a rough poetry and harsh joys.