Oct 8, 2009

Fire on the Mountain

by Edward Abbey

Back in June I read two books by Edward Abbey, one I really liked and the other was kinda lame. Here again in Fire on the Mountain I've found a book I really enjoyed. It's the story of an old man and his ranch in New Mexico, hard country where the cattle barely find enough to stay alive. But the old man loves the wild desert country, and the book is full of beautiful descriptions of fiery sunsets, heat-shimmering vistas, close encounters with rattlesnakes and glimpses of the mountain lion. His ranch isn't too prosperous, but he is content to live there in the solitude and open spaces until he dies. Until the government shoulders in, moving ranchers off the land to add it to the White Sands Missile Range, where rockets and bombs are tested. One by one neighboring ranchers cave in or are bought out, but the old man digs in his heels and refuses to leave, against all persuasion by the law and threats from jeeps of soldiers. What makes things more interesting is that it's all told from the viewpoint of the visiting grandson, a feisty kid who's soaked up all his grandpa's opinions and eager to be part of a siege in the old man's cabin. It's based on true incidents; I read another book a while back about horses that were abandoned on the land and got fenced into the missile range. I liked the contrast of reading about the same events in a fictional novel, a quickly-moving story with some suspense, fractious characters and vivid nature writing.

Rating: 3/5                     181 pages, 1962

More opinions at:
Ten Pound Press
anyone else?

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