BUTCHER'S CROSSING by John Williams

BUTCHER'S CROSSING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An odd book, with no particular motivation or direction. William Andrews, Bostonian in the period of the literary flowering, deserts his heritage of Harvard and the Unitarian church, and takes off for Butcher's Crossing in Kansas, by train and freight stage coach. His goal is the locating of a man, known to him as a child, who might get him into buffalo hunting. Just why this particular Bostonian has an urge to hunt buffalo never comes clear. He finds Butcher's Crossing a place of tents with a few essential buildings such as ""a saloon, a whorehouse, a dry goods store and a blacksmith's"". And he finds, too, three seasoned buffalo hunters, and they take off for Colorado on horseback with an ox-drawn wagon for bringing home the game. Their entrepreneur has been disposing of some 300,000 hides a year in St. Louis. The four hunters slaughter 4700 buffalo, de-gutted them, skinned them, only to be caught by a blizzard which immobilized them for the winter with horrifying privations, intimately detailed. Buffalo meat saved them from starvation; buffalo livers from disease- but that was about all they were saved. With Spring, at the crossing of a swollen river, they lost everything they had saved, plus one of their number. And with the final return to the Crossing, two of the hunters go berserk and burn up their entrepreneur's place with his stock of hides. The bottom has dropped out of the business and Butcher's Crossing is a ghost town. And William Andrews mounts his horse and turns away. Neither he- nor this reader- knows where.

ISBN: 1590171985
Publisher: Macmillan