I came upon this epic novel pretty late. It has somehow become my favourite ‘comfort read’, along with others. (Yes, The Stand is another, though not really a comfort read per se) I have found myself reading (or listening to an audio version) this book again and again.
Author Larry McMurtry transcends the tropes of the typical ‘oater’, by introducing some truly indelible characters. The loquacious, and loud-speaking Augustus (Gus), the stern and laconic Woodrow Call, and the insecure but stalwart Pea Eye.
He challenges them with a ‘cattle run’ up to Montana, from Texas, and all the perils that entails. The story is told in loving detail, and pulls no punches with violence and conflict.
How McMurtry weaves this tale and casts the entire affair in a shroud of melancholy, at the loss of the frontier, and the plight of the Native people, makes this novel as relevant now as it ever has been. Thumbs hoisted highly – I am envious if you are dipping into this novel for the first time.
The funny thing about Woodrow Call was how hard he was to keep in scale. He wasn’t a big man – in fact, was barely middle-sized – but when you walked up and looked him in the eye it didn’t seem that way. Augustus was four inches taller than his partner, and Pea Eye three inches taller yet, but there was no way you could have convinced Pea Eye that Captain Call was the short man. Call had him buffaloed, and in that respect Pea had plenty of company. If a man meant to hold his own with Call it was necessary to keep in mind that Call wasn’t as big as he seemed. Augustus was the one man in south Texas who could usually keep him in scale, and he built on his advantage whenever he could. He started many a day by pitching Call a hot biscuit and remarking point-blank, ” You know, Call, you ain’t really no giant.”