Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sons of Texas, by Elmer Kelton

My Old Man's Challenge #"I can't remember and I don't wanna go back and count". HA!

It's a western. I've never been a fan of westerns but I was just sick of soldier stuff, so there you are.

Mordecai Lewis is hard to categorize. He's kind of a mountain man because he traipses through the wilderness away from his 19th century Kentucky home, but he doesn't really trap furs the way other mountain men do. He has a farm and a wife and kids but he's constantly away from home and lets them handle the farm themselves, so I can't call him a farmer. I guess you'd have to call him an explorer of sorts, always looking for a better place. That works for the 19th century but if it was the 21st, I'd call him a shiftless bum.

His son, Michael, takes after Mordecai in many ways. He's a good shot, he can take care of himself in the woods, likes to be alone and has insatiable curiosity about new places. Michael does see how Mordecai's wanderlust has affected the family. He feels Mordecai has neglected them as a father, but he still loves Mordecai and feels that it's just in Mordecai's nature to wander. It's unfortunate his wife loves him despite the lonely weeks without him, and Michael tries to steal himself against ever marrying anyone to prevent another situation like that repeating itself.

Mordecai comes home with a friend, Eli, and dreams of going to Texas, still Spanish territory, to round up wild horses to sell in America. He convinces his brother Ben to loan him a couple of horses fit enough to run after wild stallions with the agreement that Ben gets his pick of the herd.

Mordecai forbids 17 year old Michael from coming, but Michael just waits until the party is out of sight for a day or two and then follows. Nearly getting killed by bandits doesn't lessen his enthusiasm and when his dad finds him, they are all too far away from the settlement to justify sending Michael back.

The venture starts out well, but an overly zealous Spanish officer finds the norteamericanos in his territory and his does not take prisoners. Most of the group is killed including Mordecai, and Michael is severely wounded. By a seeming miracle, Eli had chased a few strays and thus stayed out of the shootout entirely. He gets Michael to friendly mestizo family, and later to his mother.

Michael spends the rest of the book torn between wanting to go back to Texas to try to stake a claim, and staying away from the place and the men that caused his father's death.

There is plenty of violence and mention of rather distasteful child exploitation as well as adultery and murder. It's a definite PG-13 and may be close to R in some respects (Michael fantasizes about a one-night stand.) I'm not sure this is worth letting teens read. There are much better choices out there. I do have the next two books in the series, but I'm debating whether or not to continue.

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