Another good one from the western author. It’s all about the hazards of wagon trains that carry freight and supply army posts and towns in the old west.
It starts in 1856 as a wagon train with twelve year old Clint Belmet is headed west from Independence, Missouri with his father Jim and his mother Mary. Of course they have a dog. His name is Jack. Also traveling is ten year old May Bell with her father Sam.
Clint drives a wagon and his constant companion is May Bell. Later on Sam and May Bell join another train. Word comes back they were attacked by Comanches. Sam was killed and no one knows the fate of May Bell.
Clint meets legendary scouts Kit Carson and Dick Curtis. Kit tells him never to get involved with gambling and drinking. Jack the dog senses when an Indian attack is imminent and a lot of lives are saved. Clint earns the nickname Buff when he goes hunting with Curtis and bags a big buffalo.
As fate would have it two years later Clint once again meets May Bell. Turns out she was taken in by a Texas family. A man in their group, Lee Murdock, has ideas about May Bell and decks Clint when he gets jealous. Everyone believes Clint and May Bell are going to get married. Lew Maxwell owns a huge ranch and he says Clint and May Bell can stay with him.
The wagon train headed by Jim Couch is about to leave again. This time they won’t have the protection of soldiers. He’s Clint’s guardian until he turns twenty-one. Clint’s inexperience with romance causes a rift with May Bell and he heads out with Couch. He does manage to deck Murdock.
The book follows Clint for the next fifteen years as he continues to battle Indians as the caravans travel on their appointed rounds. In one town he meets up with Murdock again along with rival caravan boss Jim Murdock. Good thing Clint has been practicing with his shootin’ iron. He wins this battle but there will be more to come with those two.
The final battle between Clint’s caravan and the Indians is worthy of any spaghetti western. Through it all his search for May Bell continues.
If you’re new to Zane Grey this would be a good one to start with. Some people weren’t too crazy about his long narrative passages but he does manage to place you in the old west and in this case the dangers of life on the plains. Lots of dialogue to keep things moving and the cowboy accents are never overdone.