The setting is contemporary Texas in this looming, intense novel overcast with the savage vigor of pioneer myth and the latent brutality and spiritual impoverishment of the legatees. The small hamlet of White Dove was founded with a lover's passion by thundering Tom Parker in 1869 for cattle raising. And now the townsfolk, at the insistence of Buck Harris, whose tiny business empire needed Lebensraum over the neglected Parker grasslands (rumored to contain oil), prepare to receive the body of Ronnie Parker, who died in the Korean war, for home burial. A grave count brings Buck nearer to his goal as only one Parker grave--that of Aaron, Tom's mad son, living with the ancient Negro, Smith, remains to be filled. As While Dove awaits the ceremonious return of Ronnie's body, some remember days of horror--the violent deaths of Tom, who had refused his grasslands to the oilmen; Sarah, Aaron's young wife, who gave birth to Ronnie as she died; Ott Turner, whose bloody sacrifice gave life to Aaron; and there were others, victims of the human need that fed the land. And now there is another death, that of the spinster Elmira, whose love for Ronnie takes its final toll. Then to the pride of two men who understand, mad Aaron claims the body of his son at last--and returns to death in the shallow grass, while the town receives a coffin of mules' ears. Awash in blood and violence, this is, nonetheless, serious, sensitive, dedicated, if exhausting.