Former Texas Rangers Benton McCaleb, Will Elliot, and Brazos Gifford ride with Charles Goodnight as he rounds up thousands of ornery, unbranded cattle for the long drive to Colorado. From the Trinity River brakes to Denver, they'll battle endless miles of flooded rivers, parched desert, and whiskey-crazed Comanches. And come face-to-face with Judge Roy Bean and legendary gunslingers like Clay Allison. For McCaleb and his hard-riding crew, the drive is a fierce struggle against the perils of an untamed land. A fight to the finish where the brave reach glory—or die hard.
Compton's debut (and the first in his projected ``Trail Drive'' trilogy) depicts the rough-and-tumble adventures of Benton McCaleb and his partners. In 1865, Bent and two other Texas stet cap Rangers plan to raise a herd of maverick longhorns and take them to market. They're soon joined by Rebecca and Monte Nance, a sister and brother accustomed to frontier life, and Goose, an enigmatic Lipan Apache. The trail riders engage in several skirmishes with the Comanches; they raid an Indian camp and help U.S. Army soldiers defend the town of Waco from attack. There's also the daily work of contending with cattle stampedes and chasing down ``bunch-quitters,'' or strays. However, these folks do eat well: they're working with the trailblazing Charles Goodnight, who invents the chuck wagon here--as he supposedly did in real life. Despite the various minor plots and the fact that these characters are usually on the move, the story itself doesn't go anywhere. Yet Compton's convincingly detailed account of folks earning a living the hard way offers readers a chance to hit the trail and not even end up saddle sore.