A New Yorker, a cowboy, a Mexican and others meet at a West Texas ranch in Davis’ (How to Not Go Broke Ranching, 2011, etc.) novel about love, life and cattle raising.
When Bart Ryan unexpectedly inherits half of a Texas ranch, he doesn’t hesitate to move there from New York; he’s the sort of young man who daydreams using a road atlas. Mac Connley, the owner of the ranch’s other half, is an old cowboy who could use a new partner after a “lifetime of being bucked off, knocked down, run over, kicked, and stepped on.” When Emiliano Cortez, a widower, walks over the border from Mexico and breaks his leg near the ranch, Mac rescues him and hires him on, unbothered by his undocumented status: “He figured anybody that was willing to walk two or three hundred miles looking for work had character if he didn’t have nothing else.” Running the ranch has its challenges, including several years of drought and, especially, a lack of capital. But a cache of gold, hidden somewhere on the ranch, could solve that problem—if the men can find it. Through the novel, Davis intersperses historical vignettes about the region’s fascinating multicultural history (featuring Kiowa, Tonkawa, Comanche, Scots-Irish and German people), which provides background for the novel’s present-day story. The author knows this milieu and uses authentic details of ranching life to good effect. He also takes the opportunity to promote his views, which are sensible, humane and well-balanced (“happy cattle make more money”), but they give the novel a textbook-like feel at times. The book would also have benefited from a stronger edit; there are frequent punctuation problems, and not all the episodes deserve the space given them. Although Davis’ main characters are varied and likeable, the plot has little true conflict; problems vanish, plans come easily to fruition, everyone gets along, bad guys get their comeuppance and dreams come true.
An uneven novel, but readers interested in modern ranching and the history of West Texas will likely find much to enjoy.