Chapter 1 Summary

In the summer of 1889, Bob Starrett is just a boy. He sees a horseman riding down the road toward the small town. The sight is nothing remarkable for Wyoming, but then Bob sees some cowhands stop to stare intently at the rider, and that is unusual. The man rides steadily through town until he reaches the fork in the road near the Starrett ranch. Luke Fletcher’s “big spread” is to the left, and to the right are the smaller homestead ranches all in a row up the valley. The man stops and considers before leading his horse to the right.

As the rider gets closer, the boy is impressed by the man’s clothes: dark pants tucked into tall boots, matching jacket neatly strapped to his saddle, wide leather belt, rich brown shirt, black silk handkerchief, and black hat with a brim that sweeps down to shield his face. None of it is new, yet it has “a kind of magnificence.” This man is unlike any other Bob has ever met.

Then the boy is impressed by the man himself. The stranger is short and has a rather slight build, but every move he makes is powerful and effortless. The man’s face is clean-shaven, brown, and lean; his eyes are alert, searching in all directions and not missing a single detail. That searching gaze creates a sudden chill in the boy, though he is standing in the sun. The man rides easily, relaxed in the saddle, yet there is an underlying tension as well: “It is the easiness of a coiled spring, of a trap set.”

The rider stops twenty feet from the boy. He glances at Bob, dismisses him, and then looks at the ranch. The place is not big, but it is a good, solid place thanks to Bob’s father. It has a small corral, a tightly fenced pasture, a small but solid barn, and some alfalfa and potato fields. Marian Starrett’s kitchen garden is behind the three-room house; her husband has plans to add a parlor. The wooden porch runs the length of the house and the house is painted white with green trim,...

(The entire section is 794 words.)