A former television star who took to the trail extols a disappearing way of life.
Parker, star of ’80s detective drama Simon and Simon, has almost nothing to say about his acting career, other than to discuss why it eventually became enervating. Instead, his debut memoir begins when he leaves LA for parts just slightly east and deeper into the American West: the California ranch country of the Sierras. With his horse-loving wife Darleen, the author joins up with local cowboys, seeking to learn just how this quintessentially western job is done today. Whenever possible, he pitches in on cattle drives, helps out at brandings, looks on at auctions, and asks questions of men who excel in giving one- and two-word answers. Deeply enamored of this life rooted in the land, Parker takes the reader along on his beginner’s tour of the basics of the cowboy way. He may know little about herding balky cattle, avoiding cantankerous bulls, or heating branding irons, but he’s endlessly eager. Local trainers are profiled with deep admiration and respect. Cattlemen and cowboys are drawn with admiring strokes. The economics and politics of ranching, a true morass, are examined with a respectable attempt at evenhandedness. The habits of cows and horses come in for scrutiny, and Parker’s mare, Miss Flirt, is a character in her own right. The only digressions are periodic references to the traumatic shooting that resulted in a depression that led, in turn, to the author leaving Hollywood. Most of the limelight, however, is reserved for the cowmen. Perhaps most surprising are Parker’s writing chops: the language is expressive and intelligent, despite the author’s best efforts to imitate his laconic heroes.
Smart, disarming, and forgivably sentimental.