British-born journalist Grant succumbs to indigenous American wanderlust, exploring the land mostly left of the Mississippi in a journey of discovery for himself and other agoraphobics.
It’s a fine excursion, retracing the travels of early explorer Cabeza de Vaca. We follow in the moccasin steps of Cochise and learn the story of the horse in the West. Grant profiles admirable Apache riders and the mighty Comanches, providing lots of Indian lore as well as nature lessons and a quick history of the buffalo. We travel with unsung Joe Walker and join the first non-native travelers to see Yosemite. Plains Indians, mountain men, and cowboys jostle stalwart frontiersmen, buckskinners, and their womenfolk. It’s the story of how the West was won and how the West was lost—or at least misplaced. Now the peripatetic hunter-gatherers are rodeo cowboys, interstate hoboes, drifters, road dogs, members of the Train Riders of America, associates of the Rainbow Family of Living Light, and geriatric RV travelers. Grant attends gatherings of stoned hippies who, citing favored “fakelore,” remember previous Native American incarnations. He joins truckers in the cabs of their Peterbilts while they sail past the spirit of all the slaughtered buffalo. He bonds with retired pilgrims as they hug each other by their pricey mobile homes. He shows up at a sporadically scheduled rendezvous of latter-day mountain men. He also picks up pungent hitchhikers who dispense crafty tramp wisdom before leaving his truck. The author expresses a strong aversion to finishing life in a hospital. He would rather die in the desert someday, like many members of his special breed of traveling heroes.
A diverting jaunt with vagabonds of the West’s open roads and backwoods: mobile nobility nicely considered. (3 maps)