This winner of the first National Novella Award is a coming-of-age story about a boy in the company of his madcap uncle. It's effectively overdrawn for comic effect, but in the end too easily telegraphs its ironies. Uncle Eph is one of those eternally optimistic hucksters long-favored in regional humor. A former oil baron whose wells went dry, he dresses like a movie rancher and concocts money-making schemes. When his brother writes about a horse auction at the Navajo Reservation, he quickly arrives with the laconic Mr. Smart--"best damned judge of horseflesh you'll ever hope to meet." His nephew Davey narrates the story, which consists of Eph's "pony fever" and a piecing together of family history: Eph consults with Pa (Davey's father), meets Hosteen Tse (Navajo priest/politician), then manipulates the better horses into separate lots and successfully bids for them. He takes the horses to Amarillo, where he hopes to hype them as "Geronimo's Ponies!" Davey, taken along, not only sees through his uncle, but also learns the truth about family mythology: his grandfather was no hero in the Civil War, but a deserter, and Uncle Eph never bothered to put a stone on Davey's mother's grave, even though Pa sent him money for that purpose. Things fall apart for Uncle Eph, of course, but Davey participates vicariously in his uncle's misadventures--some amusing, others predictable--and becomes street-smart. He also learns of his mother's wild younger days--when, out of wedlock, she had a child that her father killed. A well-paced, entertaining debut, with one revelation following another--but also with characters, finally, too stereotyped.