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Harcourt Brace & Company , 1999

"It is estimated that between 1867 and 1895 , more than five thousand African American cowboys helped drive nearly ten million cattle up the trails from Texas. The life of a cowboy on the open range held more financial opportunities and less discrimination than any other profession open to blacks at the time." (from the preface).

Who says the "western" has little educational or cultural relevance for today's teens? This illuminating historical novel introduces YA readers to what it might have been like in the beginning for one of the best of those cowboys, sixteen-year-old George McJunkin.

Beaten and bruised, George shows up looking for a job with the Hayden trail drive heading north along the Abilene or better known as the Chisholm Trail. Vouched for by his Mexican vaquero mentor, he's hired and becomes the "wrango" (horse wrangler) of the drive. The author, having done his cattle drive research, effectively conveys the adventurous, never a dull moment, and dangerous experiences on a cattle drive: swollen rivers, a thunderstorm, stampede, Indians, rattlesnake bite, and typical personality conflicts among the cowboys. By the end of the trail, George has found his profession, begun to learn to read, and earned the respect and friendship of his boss and fellow Texans.

After the drive, he accepts the job of driving a herd of horses to New Mexico. He stays, becomes a ranch foreman, and not only acquires a reputation for breaking and training horses, but becomes learned and knowledgeable of geology and collects old arrowheads. Years later scientists would travel to the McJunkin Bone Pit renaming it the Folsom Site and 10,000 year old spear point found there.

Upon finishing Wrango, stimulated YA readers or adults can find in most libraries: Andy Adams's Log Of A Cowboy, The Trail To Ogallala novel by Capps, the standards Negro Cowboys and The Adventures Of The Negro Cowboys by Durham & Jones, The Chisholm Trailby Gard, Black Cowboy; The Life And Legend Of George McJunkin by Folsom, and the Hanes biography of the West's most famous African American cowboy, Bill Pickett. 116 pages. 2000 Spur Award winner for best Juvenile fiction. Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, high school librarian

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