Ryan Walker has always known what he wants to be a cowboy, like his father was before being injured in a riding accident. But when Ryan's older brother, Gil, becomes a member of the Mountain Patriots Association, a militia group that wants to keep Wyoming free from immigrants, minorities, and government interference, Ryan finds himself questioning things he's taken for granted all his life. As tensions in the community build to inevitable violence, Ryan is torn between his love for the world in which he grew up and his sense of fairness and decency. How can he stand up for what is right when he's not sure what that is?
About the Author
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has written more than 135 books, including the Newbery Award–winning Shiloh and its sequels, the Alice series, Roxie and the Hooligans, and Roxie and the Hooligans at Buzzard’s Roost. She lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland. To hear from Phyllis and find out more about Alice, visit AliceMcKinley.com.
Read an Excerpt
From Chapter Thirteen
Christmas wasn't too different from any other day at Walker's Crossing. You still had to get up early, feed the horses and cattle, put down fresh hay, milk the dairy cows. Lon and Doris Walker let their kids pick out something they wanted from Teepee's or from a catalog, and there was a turkey for dinner.
There had been another big snow before Christmas, and it seemed to Ryan that half his life was spent digging out paths to the barn and the shed, if not at home, then over at Hank's. He liked to stay busy, though. Liked being out of the house.
Gil had been gone almost every weekend, and every week he looked more and more like a general -- acted like one, anyway. With the Sheldons' barn gone, the men had been meeting in an outbuilding over at Big Ed's place. They bragged that the Feds may have burned the barn, but they didn't get the guns and ammo, which had been buried under the dirt floor.
Gil had taken to wearing his camouflage shirt and pants even when he wasn't going off on maneuvers, and T. P. had told him he'd rather he didn't wear them at the gas pumps on weekends. He'd given all his help navy blue fleece parkas with Teepee's in red on the backs, and he expected them to wear them. Gil put the parka on over his camouflage shirt, but he still wore his combat boots.
He had put up a table-sized artificial tree in his basement bedroom on which he hung, as ornaments, little red and white nooses. Sid got them somewhere, he said, and was passing them around as a joke. Gil and his friends wished each other a White Christmas and a "Jew-Free" New Year. Ryan almost asked his dad what he thought about it, then decidedhe'd better keep his mouth shut. It was Christmas, after all.
"Dennis," Ryan said to the lean, gray man one evening in January, watching him shoe a horse, the horse's hoof tucked between his knees. "Do you believe everything they say about the Jews?"
Dennis Shay took another nail from his pocket and pounded it into the hoof. "What who says?"
"I don't know. Everyone."
"Now what in the world made you ask me a question like that?" Dennis said. "I can't hardly say I've known many Jews. Not any at all, I guess. Not to talk to, anyway."
Ryan gave a nervous laugh. "Some of it's really wild. I mean, Kevin -- this guy at school -- says he read on the Internet that Jews use the blood of Christian children to make matzo."
"Oh, come on!" said Dennis, not even looking up.
"But you keep hearing how they've taken over New York City and the government, too," he continued. "And how they really aren't God's chosen people at all -- we are."
Shay examined the horseshoe, pushing at it with his thumbs to see if there was any wiggle, then let the hoof drop and gave the horse a pat.
"Well, now, I don't keep up with all that church stuff, but I don't guess God plays favorites. That he likes one kind of people better'n he likes another. You can sure stir up a mess of trouble with that one."
"But do you think they're trying to come out here and take Wyoming away from us?"
"There's enough land out here to buy; they don't have to take it. Why wouldn't someone want to live here? We do. We're not the only people in the world who like the big sky."
They were quiet for a while -- Dennis examining the horses' hooves, Ryan leaning against the railing. Finally Dennis tipped the brim of his hat up so he could get a better look at Ryan and said, "What's eating at you today, cowboy? Somethin' on your mind?"
"Oh, it's just this stuff I'm hearing from Gil. About Mexicans coming in and getting our jobs, and Japs and Jews buying up our land. Like a war, almost. It is, sort of, because Mr. Sheldon's got..." He started to tell Dennis about the guns, then stopped. That was probably something he wasn't supposed to mention.
Dennis, however, didn't seem particularly interested. "What it's all about, Ryan, is change," he said in his slow way of speaking, drawing out the final word of each sentence, like the slow swing of a door. "There are folks who take to it and folks who don't."
"How about you?" asked Ryan.
"Heck, I have to take to it. Couldn't work on a ranch if I didn't. Things are changing all the time -- the kind of feed that's best for cattle, the way we plant, the way we breed....The market changes every day. You got to keep your mind open to change or you don't survive in this business. New people come along with new ideas about how to do things, and you got to ask yourself, 'What can I learn from this person? What new thing can he teach me?'"
"Change isn't always good, though," Ryan countered.
"No. Reckon not. And there are some big problems -- illegal immigrants, for starters. But you got to keep your eye on the big picture, and not take your frustration out on some poor soul who only wants a better life, same as we all do. Now I don't know what Gil's got himself mixed up in, but the way I see it, there's two things you can do to move yourself up in this world. The first is to become better at what you do, so you earn it. The second is to tear down everybody around you, make 'em look small just so's you'll look a little taller yourself." He winked at Ryan. "And you ask me, you don't need to look an inch taller than you are now."
Ryan returned his grin.
Copyright © 1998 by Chiaroscuro Productions