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Reviews 183 Republic should go away empty-handed when in search of the paradox of Pancho Villa. The book is interesting as a compilation of facts, conjectures, and hearsay about the man. The eyewitness accounts of Villa by the Mexican writer, Martin Luis Guzman, in The Eagle and the Serpent, 1928, should be read in conjunction with Braddy’s book as a mild corrective to Braddy’s reluctance to kill good but fanciful copy. Clifford Alan Perkins’ first person narrative of his service with the Border Patrol covers the years from 1910 to 1953 and relates events in his career as he worked in Texas, Arizona, and California. Although the tone of the narrative is low key and understated, many incidents of shootouts, intrigues, horseback chases and other dangerous encounters with smugglers, bandits— including Pancho Villa— add drama to the prose. In fact, Perkins’ life story reads much like a Zane Grey plot, sans the purple prose. He lived in Wisconsin until he was nineteen and dreamed of being a professional baseball player. When he developed a case of “sus­ pected tuberculosis,” he went to El Paso for the air and drifted later into the U. S. Immigration Service at Tucson in 1911. This became the Immi­ gration Border Patrol in 1924. At first he enforced the Chinese Exclusion Act, then the Literacy Act, then, during World War I, the Passport Act, and later in the twenties the Prohibition Act. Richly supplied with photographs of the times, the text takes the reader back to bygone border days and presents finely wrought vignettes of investi­ gations, arrests comic and tragic, performed in the line of duty with the Patrol. The book is a valuable contribution to the history of this service. ROBERT B. OLAFSON Eastern Washington University From the High Plains. By John Fischer. (New York: Harper and Row, 1978. 181 pages, $10.00.) John Fischer’s From the High Plains is a collage of reminiscences, histories, and character portraits centered in that Oklahoma -Texas area known as the High Plains. Fischer claims the High Plains as the last settled place in the U. S. and, as a grandchild of original settlers, he recounts survivors’ tales. He wrote many of the pieces included in this collection for Harper’s Magazine; that publication accounts, I suspect, both for the strengths and weaknesses of the book. Fischer’s purpose for putting together this potpourri is, as he says, “an attempt to document some remnant of the last frontier as it was 184 Western American Literature remembered by eyeball witnesses.” However, most of his witnesses are long dead and his retelling of the stories is derivative of other published versions. He simplifies and dramatizes those versions, and so, unfortunately, adds to the myth of the West as a potboiler’s dream. Two chapters, his portrait of Colonel Goodnight and his “Misleading History of Old Tascosa” are particularly irritating because they lend credence to cliches. He takes most of his material on Goodnight from Frank Dobie (with appropriate referrals), but he turns Dobie’s complex vision into a simpler, and more banal, view. He finishes his chapter with a particularly annoying brag about Goodnight, at age 92, impregnating his young wife. Dobie was the source of this information and also includes it in his portrait of Goodnight; Fischer, however, cannot resist the impulse to flaunt it, to make it the focus of an idea about cowboy virility. It is dramatic, but also, I think, misleading. He likewise plays up the melodrama of Tascosa’s history, while disclaiming that intent. This playing to those remnants of taste and ideas about the West is annoying and probably a result of writing for Harper’s. Fischer is at his best when he writes of what he personally knew and did. “Barbed Wire and the Art of Stringing It” begins with his recollecton of stringing fences with his Grandfather Fischer. Inserted into this chapter is a short history of the invention of barbed wire, a bit about Glidden’s investments in High Plains real estate, and some memories of Grandfather Fischer, a stem farmer whom Fischer never saw on horseback and who was a prototype of those who eventually...


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pp. 183-184
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