Saturday, April 13, 2013


Well, I finally read this story a week or so ago in the large print edition I found at my local public library. [I remember a time when I would be disappointed that a book was only available to me in large print-- now... I utter a prayer of thanks when I find some sought-after book in the giant font! Ah, growing older is interesting, my friends!]

Really more of a novella than a short story [In large print it was 88 pages long] TAPPAN'S BURRO was a tale crafted by Zane Grey at what was arguably the height of his narrative power-- the late 1920s.  Originally published in THE LADIES' HOME JOURNAL, it is the sentimental but highly affecting story of a gigantic prospector Tappan and his donkey Jenet, whom he rescues as a weak runt of a foal at the beginning of the story.  Jenet grows to become Tappan's closest companion, and the story is divided between 3 separate tales that are interconnected but span many years. 

Even Grey's harshest detractors always seem to admit one thing about him as a writer:  that he was an absolute master of painting landscapes with words.  Indeed, even in this short novel old Zane describes in vivid detail both a blistering summer trek through Death Valley and a fiercely bitter blizzard winter in the Mogollon Rim. There is plenty of action as well [ZG's other best ability was in describing scenes of pure action] and Tappan and Jenet are just a great couple of characters. 

Also, the best short fiction is the kind that that introduces a conflict and pulls the reader straight into it, and this story did that quite well.  Tappan, in the second section of the story, puts faithful Jenet in the backseat for a compromising and ultimately ill-fated romance, the complications of which are pretty realistically drawn.  I must say, Tappan's unexpected infatuation changes the mood of the story and eventaully ushers in a climax that is about as unforgettable as that of any animal story I can remember.

Bring some Kleenix for this one, pardner!

As a story of the bonding between man and animal I found this tale to be top-notch. Truly, it is nothing short of a love story; one about a man and the beast he has grown to depend on in almost every way.  I found it an engaging and surprisingly textured example of western story-telling.  Highly recommended.



Oscar said...

Haven't read this one and don't remember seeing it in the collections I've run across. Sounds great. The different covers are fine, too.

Albie The Good said...

OSCAR: Yep, it's a good'un... the scenes are really vivid. A southwesterner like you will really appreciaite it!