by Brian Burks
Gr 4-8-A fictionalized biography of black cowboy George McJunkin's first cattle drive at age 16, Wrango is an affecting history lesson. Wrangling being the closest thing to an equal-opportunity vocation following the Civil War, it attracts George, who joins his mentor, Senor Valarde, on the Chisholm Trail herding cattle from Comanche, TX, to the rail yards in Abilene, KS. Racism surfaces-an ironically fortuitous run-in with the Klan in his south Texas hometown provides the catalyst George needs to cut the apron strings and begin his career as a cowboy; a jealous cowpuncher questions his place on the trail-but the rigors of the cattle drive generally supersede, or at least postpone, individual confrontations. Burks hints at McJunkin's intellectual potential through his desire to learn to read combined with an archaeological curiosity that would lead many years later to his discovery of the skeleton of "Folsom Man" in New Mexico. Indians, horse thieves, cholera, harsh weather, erratic terrain, and even herds of buffalo provide unifying adversaries for this mix of cowboys and vaqueros. Addenda include a frontispiece portrait of McJunkin on his horse taken when he was about 60-years-old, a map of the Chisholm Trail, and a brief glossary of cowboy/vaquero lingo. Fans of Denise Lewis Patrick's The Adventures of Midnight Son (Holt, 1995) will want to read this absorbing chronicle of a slightly older, equally introspective, although perhaps a bit cooler-headed, former slave who is determined to be his own man, proud and free.-John Sigwald, Unger Memorial Library, Plainview, TX
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