by Cliff Hudgins
2018, Wolfpack Publishing, e-book
GRANDPA'S LEGACY is a different type of “western” than most, which makes it a real treat.
The story has a loosely knit plot and interesting characters. What makes it a joy, however, is its “voice” that brings the reader into a world that some of us have had the good fortune to know and the others wish they could have known. In many ways, it reads like a series of parables, short vignettes that reveal truths about family, love, hard work, community, acceptance of others, generosity, self-reliance, competency, and passing wisdom to the next generation(s).
The main character, as I see it, is Grandpa, an embodiment of wisdom, knowledge, and experience. He never preaches, dictates, or pontificates. But he is always there to guide and encourage his family in the world of the west, perhaps 100 years ago.
The chapters are short and straightforward, as Grandpa shows how to build a barn, fight bandits, work with neighbors, host a bar-b-que, shoot guns, stand up for yourself, how to handle death…and life.
Some of the chapters have direct exposition in the form of dialogue, which would normally be an off-putting sign of an amateur, but here feels natural.
An example, about learning to hunt:
“Now you need to learn the other half of the hunting rules. We only kill what we can eat or keep. Birds don’t keep well and you can’t smoke them like the beef and deer we have. Rabbits can be smoked…You never want to kill out an entire covey. If you do that very often the birds cannot rebuild the covey.” The boys nodded.
Another example, about building a barn:
“I had Jamie dig a trough on one side of the hole. We will pull the log so that it is just near the edge of the hole. We will use three ropes. The main pulling rope is that 2 inch thick rope. That will be tied to the top of the pole and to the double tree. We need two long lassos looped over the end and stretched out on the side. They will help stop the log from swinging back and forth. I want you on the mule team, but be sure to pull slowly. The bottom end should start down the hole and then begin to lift the top up.”
And sometimes life lessons are simply stated:
“The western sky was turning colors as the sun began to set. The purples and oranges blended together and in spite of the harshness of the day there would be another tomorrow. He wandered as he basked in the beauty of the sunset if there would be other harsh days, and if so how soon would they come. But right now he was comforted in the knowledge that there would be another tomorrow.”
Some of us have had the good fortune to have known such people and lessons, and we smile. Others wish they could have had such fortune, but we can still smile at the lessons from those who have lived and are willing to share their experience and wisdom.