A Wyoming ranch-hand represses his homosexuality until he meets a drifter and then a Native American berdache, or wise man, and finds his own identity in the New West--in a first novel that mixes lyricism with a strong sense of place to chronicle the travails of being gay in a straight world. Blue Parker, 23, is a ranch foreman who's lived his life in a small Wyoming town as a sort of cowboy. It's a place where men are men and you better not mess around with anything queer. Blue makes his peace in such a situation until Sam, a drifter, appears. They go drinking at a bar and meet Gilbert, a Native American quasi- shaman with great personal presence and an interest, possibly sexual, in Blue and Sam. When Gilbert dances with Sam, all hell breaks loose and Sam ends up in the hospital at the hands of Derek, a wild-eyed, crazy redneck. Blue stays with Gilbert for a time: Gilbert is one of those literary figures who's placed inside a book to represent magical doings and absolute confidence and self- possession (``I have things to give you, boys''; ``You're safe and happy with me now''). Then Blue, faced with the suspicions and perplexities of the locals, cares for Sam until Derek comes to Blue's cabin with a knife, whereupon Sam drives away. The rest of the narrative is told mostly in poetic vignettes--flashbacks abound--until, finally, Blue and Sam reconnect before Sam is thrown from a horse. By the end, Blue is off into the sunset alone, to live with--and face down--his demons. Two thirds of this is a finely textured Western narrative with a gay perspective; attached to it is a different kind of windup that's impressionistic and fragmented. Mostly it works, though the stitches show through sometimes.