Western Road Trip: Wyoming

The Great American Road Trip

Destination: Wyoming Book: (NEW) Come Again No More (September 2010) by Jack Todd Bitteroot Valley, Montana

 

They were three miles west of town when the sun broke through. The wind tore the clouds to rags, the sun lit the rags on fire and in fiery trails they streamed across the sky that opened like a bruised and tender heart. [Opening sentences of Come Again No More]

In that opening, Jack Todd paints a beautiful picture of the open skies of Wyoming, but I like this passage a few sentences later, where the author gives us a capsule of the time when people are taking road trips, as well as the setting.

Now and again they caught up to battered jalopies tiptoeing along the road on tires that were tall and thin and bald as a buzzard, the drivers gritting their teeth as they held on to the wide steering wheels, fighting to keep an ancient Model T or a battered Studebaker form skidding into the barrow pit.

Now I know that the times are tough, and since the Model T is already ancient, I assume the 1930′s have arrived with the Great Depression. By the colloquialism ‘bald as a buzzard,’ I’m tipped off that this is the Western United States. Automobiles and road trips are important in this book, particularly since people wandered from state to state seeking relief from unrelenting hardship.

Todd portrays two worlds–ranching and gangster-ridden boxing–and there is no doubt when you leave one for the other. Not only the character’s speech, but the narrative reflects the rhythm and usage of its world. On the ranch:

“ Ezra Paint crawled out of his bunk while it was still darker than a stack of black cats.”

In Jake, the prize fighter’s world:

..his knuckles had been broken so often that his hands looked like a bowl full of walnuts.”

The use of “telling details” eludes lesser writers (I will admit that it is the bane of my existence), and sets Jack Todd apart as a masterful teller of tales.

Come Again No More is the second in a trilogy about the ranching family, the Paints. Since I missed the first one, and devoured this one, I yearn to read the entire set, starting with Sun Going Down, and the third when it appears. On his website, Todd explains that while he based the tales on stories from his parentsand grandparents’ experience, he fictionalized the events in order to reflect a broader view of the experience of those years.  He tips his hat to the master, John Steinbeck, whose The Grapes of Wrath (link to Penguin Classics edition) is the go-to novel for understanding life during the hard years of the depression.

Jack Todd doesn’t live in the American West, because he left the United States to avoid being drafted for the war in Vietnam. He is now a sportswriter in Canada. I am glad that I didn’t read the fine print about his personal choices before I read the novel. Whatever you think of his iconoclastic journalism or his surrender of his American passport, his writing about the West shines.

Take a look at Music Road for suggestions of music to accompany your road trip to the Western United States, including Wyoming.

Touchstone, an imprint of Simon and Schuster provided a review copy of this book to me. The photograph of the Bitterroot Mountains shows a Wyoming location, but the view from the Paint Ranch in Montana would have been similar. This photo comes from Flickr with a Creative Commons license. Please click on the photo for more information about the photographer.

I have highlighted several book titles above. If you click on the link it will take you to Amazon.com, and if you buy anything at all while you are there, A Traveler’s Library will gain a few cents.  Amazon statistics tell me that many are clicking, but few are buying. Come on, better start doing your holiday shopping. What better place to do it than here? Thanks for your support.

In the comments below, tell me if you are influenced by the personality or background of an author, or if you just judge a book by its contents. Let’s talk.

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler’s Library, recreating her family’s past at Ancestors In Aprons. She writes frequently for Reel Life With Jane and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

Vera Marie Badertscher – who has written posts on A Traveler's Library.


About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons. She writes frequently for Reel Life With Jane and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

14 thoughts on “Western Road Trip: Wyoming

  1. I love hearing about my mom’s stories about Depression Era rations too. I must admit that Grapes of Wrath wasn’t one of my favorites, but maybe I’ll have to give this a try.

  2. I LOVE books like this and will definitely seek it out. I love hearing my mom tell the story of she and dad and my older brother, born in 1950, driving out west in their old Packard. I’d like to make that trip some day, too.

  3. I need to visit this part of the country. Always been intrigued with it. And the first sentences of the book are enough to convince me further of that! What beautiful breathtaking visuals.

  4. Being a born and bred girl of the American West, I may just have to check this out. It’s interesting that the author doesn’t live here anymore. A lot has changed since he left.

    1. Roxanne: But he’s not writing about the present day. He’s writing about the Depression era, so he probably had it right. Kristen and the anon. behind No Pot Cooking–interesting that you both picked up on the authors debt to Steinbeck. And Steph, I tend to agree with you. It is a shame when people from other countries visit only the margins of the country and don’t see the big dramatic spaces of the west.

Comments are closed.