It's not the elephant in the room but the dinosaur in the canyon that ignites a firestorm near a cattle ranch.
Colorado, 1877. Ranch foreman Chad Larimer catches a trio of rustlers red-handed and is forced to shoot one of them dead. The danger is ramped up when a nearby accomplice seizes and threatens Chad's young sidekick, Eric, the grandson of his boss, but a long-range shot splits open the head of the would-be kidnapper. Eric's savior identifies himself as Alex Stovill and says he's looking for work. It seems only right for Chad to introduce him to his boss, C.L. McSween, who owns the Rocking S. When the benevolent cattleman declares himself in Alex's debt, Eric's mother, Libby, who happens to also be Chad's gal,expresses her concern for Eric's safety, though she's careful to add that she trusts Chad. It can't help bothering Chad when Alex takes a shine to Libby. In the course of roaming the ranch, Chad comes upon courtly Samuel Cobsworth, who's excited about a discovery of very old bones on the property. Chad is surprised when Libby shows annoyance over Cobsworth; she wants no delay in filling the ranch's reservoir. Chad's even more concerned about the potential rift in his relationship with her, even though their estrangement turns out to be short-lived. Chad and Cobsworth become unlikely friends, and the old cowhand settles down to study dinosaurs. But a deadly explosion and an unexpected enemy spell danger.
Veteran Hirt's (Deadwood, 1999, etc.) plain prose has abundant heart. This Western thriller rolls a bit slowly but with ease and true grit.