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At 81 Guthrie fills in a time gap (1845-1870) in his early-day West series begun with The Big Sky: this fine, modest episode falls between The Way West and Those Thousand Hills. One-time mountain man Dick Summers, now 45 and feeling old, has left his farm and, after guiding a party to Oregon, is heading for his beloved Teton shores in Missouri. Crossing the Rockies in early winter with fellow drifter Higgins, Summers shows his woodsman's wiles and rails against the spoiling of the West, The twosome comes upon Summers' old love--cast-out Indian woman Teal Eye, who lives with her blind son Nocansee (fathered by violent old pal Boone Caudill). And, after Summers saves Teal Eye from molestation by some braves, she welcomes him into her teepee. Years pass, the four living together. Teal Eye has Summers' son Lije (Elijah); later, to get Higgins a wife, they cross the Missouri and follow the Oregon Trail to Shoshone country--where toothless Higgins wins a pretty young wife by his fiddling and lonesome songs. And finally, Caudill, now a crazed killer, shows up--but he's eliminated, so the good folk can go on to gold country, later returning to live peacefully along the Teton. . . until the whites arrive, bringing the whiskey plague to the Indians and the novel's tragic end. Despite the simplistic themes and lots of idyllic dawdling along the way: a welcome addition to a much-loved series.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1982
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin