Salt Fork. Fictional New Mexico frontier town that embodies characteristics of historically real places on the Western frontier. Vividly displaying the shifting boundaries of a newly settled prairie land, Salt Fork plays a central role in The Sea of Grass. Borrowing from folklore, the wild frontier of this place helps readers understand the types of people who migrate to the West, the promise and hopes that draw them there, and the realities and dangers they encounter at their journeys’ ends.
Rich men, like Colonel Jim Brewton, seeking more wealth, claim this frontier and its luxurious prairie as their own, building empires of cattle and grasslands. They created the first settlements, developed the first city governments, and became the “law of the land.” These cattle barons, not unlike kings in their prairie kingdoms, viewed new migrants to the area, often referred to as “nesters” or “grangers,” as destructive interlopers who understood neither the value of the grasslands they hoped to plow nor the environment and climate that would foil their success as farmers. It is the ongoing struggle for ownership, the battle between cattle barons and would-be settlers, that introduces the initial conflict between Colonel Jim and the new district attorney, Brice Chamberlain.
As the backdrop for yet another type of frontier relationship, Salt Fork becomes the stark, violent behavioral and environmental canvas onto which is juxtaposed the fragile qualities of eastern socialite, Lutie Cameron, who travels from St. Louis, Missouri, to New Mexico to join her future husband, Jim Brewton, who owns the Cross B Ranch outside Salt Fork. The very qualities of this...
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