I love a good Western, but they are not always easy to find. Many of them tend to be rather formulaic and the ending of the story is apparent from a long way out. Every once in a while I find one that breaks from that mold and when I do I savor it like fine wine (or a shot of rotgut). Brett Cogburn’s Panhandle is one of the best Westerns I’ve read recently. On one level it’s a great story in its own right, but I also found it to be a social commentary on how people deal with cultural changes.
Panhandle is about three young cowboys who have been living the free and easy life for which cowboys are known. No house, few possessions, and very little money doesn’t sound like such a good deal to most people. But to a real cowboy, the opportunity to be outside on a good horse in open country is worth every penny they don’t earn. Our three cowboys start the story by stealing horses from a band of Indians on a reservation, not the most noble of endeavors, but one that’s not viewed as a terrible crime during the period. This was the best idea they had to make a little money during the off season, so they went for it. Remember, many cowboys weren’t hired year round and mainly worked the roundups and ensuing cattle drives.
The trio proceeds to live the lifestyle that cowboys are so famous for living, engaging in several adventures. Unfortunately for them, the age of the wild cowboy is quickly coming to an end and they are going to be forced to deal with the changes. Who knew barbed wire and sheep could change things so quickly?
Of course, any Western worth its salt will have a romance in the story. Enter the most beautiful girl in the region, who quickly becomes a problem between Billy and Tennessee as they both pursue her. I can’t reveal how this will end, but rest assured it makes great reading!! If you like Westerns, but are a little tired of the same old, same old, give Panhandle a try, I hope you’ll like it.