Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Book: Mavericks by Jack Schaefer (1970)



Mavericks is the first western that I have read and I enjoyed it greatly. The story is a collection of reminiscences by the old timer Jake Hanlon, who for one last time visits the desolate ranch where he spent many of his years. Once there, he revisits his past, taking stock of his cowboy life and reliving memories and adventures of a bygone era.
"Old Jake has come out here where some of his best years were spent in the satisfaction of sweat and dust and hard work. He is an old grizzly that knows his time has come and has retreated deep into its range to meet death in dignity alone. He is an old lobo wolf that had lived out his years and has crawled back to its den to wait for the final dissolution. He is an old pine long past growth and the renewing sap of recurrent spring, waiting now for the winds to topple it to the last merging with the land from which it came."
Just off in the distance is a highway roaring with traffic, providing the perfect contrast between the old and new, between the modern man who is in a frenzied rush and the man of a bygone era, a man who was more in tune with nature, and in this case a man who was particular in tune with a specific breed of horse, the great mustang.
"Cars with gas pedals to the floor, racing hot engines past the speed limit, taking businessmen to appointments that mean dollars, taking tourists to the next comfortable air-conditioned motels marked for them on their maps. Buses, big and ungainly, ripping away rubber trying to keep to impossible schedules. Huge tractor-trailer trucks with diesel exhausts snorting fumes hammering the pavement in their rush to reach the haven of distant warehouses.
'All of 'em sure in a hell of a hurry', says old Jake. 'Tryin' to get somewhere. Ain't they ever figured they was somewhere's afore they started.' "
Mavericks is wonderfully effective and simple book that stands out in today's world of complex narratives and anti-heroes - we are presented with a protagonist who has a set of virtues that are almost wholly admirable! The book also includes some nice illustrations.
 
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