An affecting memoir of life in small-town Kansas.
Wyatt Earp’s old haunt is still haunted by him, or at least some version of him, the heroic lawmaker that brings in tourists. Rebein (Hicks, Tribes, and Dirty Realists: American Fiction after Postmodernism, 2001) will have none of that: His Earp is “the greatest bouncer the West ever knew,” a man skilled at rolling drunk cowboys and shaking down former Confederate soldiers. More than that, Earp lends his name to a strip of asphalt that runs through the heart of Dodge City, where drag racing and beer drinking formed the heart of Saturday night. Rebein’s upbringing was eccentric but not particularly hard, by his account. His father was the master of the add-on and the remodeling project, but was otherwise fairly normal, though with twists. The owner of scrap heaps and habitué of body shops and other places where metal was king, he had a penchant for accumulating junkyard dogs, “all of them troubled in some way, unmanageable by anyone but him.” For a young Rebein, the world of wrecked cars became a wonderland, and he writes lyrically of the things that turned up in them, from porn to lighters to photographs to ammunition. Elsewhere, he deconstructs aspects of small-town life on the Western plains, including the rodeo, which as a teenager he shunned as yet one more thing that spelled hick-dom but for which he has an older fellow’s appreciation, and the casino, which has become a mainstay of Dodge City—and even more of a draw than the legend of Wyatt Earp.
A minor but well-crafted work, and an all-too-rare glimpse of daily life in rural America.