Reviewer Richard Mann: Richard is a retired CPA, college instructor, and paralegal in Ogden, Utah. He has published over 500 magazine articles and a commercially published e-book, including several book review columns in magazines. He loves to read mysteries, westerns, humor, selected non-fiction, and computer books. To read more from Richard check out his BLOG.
AUTHOR: D.G. Foster
PUBLISHER: Outskirts Press
ISBN: 978-1-4787-4156-5 Trade Paperback
Imagine yourself in your working cowboy garb, sitting around a campfire after a long day of rounding up cattle in the Colorado high country. Your pardners, to use the cowboy argot, are telling stories of amusing things that have happened to them, often making one of the others at the fire the butt of the joke.
Take away the cowboy garb, campfire, and the pure, thin mountain air and you have this book. The author and his dad, Tuffy, spent years as part-time cowboys, partly to earn money, but mostly for the sheer joy of that incomparable work. (If cowboying doesn’t bring up images of pure joy in your mind, at least be willing to believe that it does for at least a few hardcase westerners.)
This book caught my attention because I like funny stuff, I would have loved to have been a cowboy, and it takes place near Durango, Silverton, and Pagosa Springs, Colorado (to name a few locations in the stories). These are some of my favorite places on earth.
This particular evening at the fire includes 18 stories, which are presented as true (or nearly true, as many campfire stories tend to be).
The first story involves the hard-learned lesson that one must always tighten one’s cinch. If you’ve ever had a day that started badly, went downhill from there, and then took a turn that led well beyond the worst, this story is about that day in a cowboy’s life. His saddle came off the horse with him in it, and was pulled all the way across a meadow by an angry 700-pound cow. Then, when he thought it was over, the irritated mama cow decided to go back the way it came, again dragging our unhappy narrator. You don’t want to know what happened next.
Three other stories involve Tuffy pressing his small pack donkey into service as a cow pony, to the vast amusement of all who saw. To everyone’s surprise, the donkey turned out to be a darn fine cow pony.
Tuffy loved to surprise folks. In one story, he decided it was time for him to get himself a mean old cow dog to help encourage reluctant critters to get back with the herd. He bought a dog named Killer and bragged him up every which way. When the others finally met Killer, he was a tiny teacup poodle. Then one day, an ornery cow was resisting every effort, and even the other dogs wouldn’t try to move her. So Tuffy sent Killer after the animal. To everyone’s astonishment, Killer herded the beast into line in no time. The narrator goes on to tell us that Killer never again did anything remotely useful, but he certainly did his job that first time.
That gives you the flavor of the stories. They are written in slightly strained cowboy slang with colorful epithets, bad grammar, and lots of apostrophes to represent letters dropped from the ends of words. Once you get the rhythm of the text, it becomes natural, but the first few pages may take an effort to decipher.
As you get deeper into the book, the continuing characters become old friends, and the stories pack a little more punch than they do at first. At first, you are aware that these stories are very much like what you would hear at a campfire. They don’t necessarily include all the elements of a successful tale; they often peter out without a real ending. When you are reading a book, you expect more complete story telling; when sitting around a campfire with friends, you don’t need or expect each story to be a masterpiece. It is enough to merely visualize the silly situations your friends have endured.
So it is with this book. It’s like a comfortable evening at the campfire, resting after a long day of hard horseback labor, and listening to your friends tell their favorite memories. It’s low-key, pleasant, and friendly.