(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Texas McCormick (Tex) is the narrator of the novel; through his experience the story is developed and told to the reader. He is young, given to pranks, and loves his horse, Negrito, who must be sold in the course of the novel. Mason McCormick (Mace) is Tex's older brother and father substitute when their father is on the rodeo circuit; he is a well-liked basketball star and his schoolmates often model themselves after him. He sees his ability in basketball as a way to get a college scholarship and escape from a lifestyle in which he feels entrapped. Pop is the biological father of Mace and the supposed father of Tex. His early life included a prison term during which his wife had an affair with a rodeo rider which produced Tex. Johnny Collins is a good friend to Tex and sometimes plays pranks with him. Jamie, Johnny's sister, is also a friend to Tex; she becomes the object of his budding desire more as the novel progresses. Cole Collins is the father of Johnny and Jamie; a stern disciplinarian, he does not approve of Tex and Mace and does not want his children to associate with them. He does, however, assist in saving Tex's life when he is wounded. Lem is an older friend of Tex and Mace who is now married and lives in an apartment in "the city." He sells drugs to maintain his lifestyle and allows Tex to accompany him after Tex runs away from home. Tex is wounded during a drug sale with Lem.

(The entire section is 259 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Blackie Collins
Blackie refuses to live up to the expectations of his demanding father, Cole. Rather than enroll in college, Blackie runs off to San Francisco.

Charlie Collins
The oldest of the Collins children, Charlie is a medical student who lives in an apartment in the city. A popular guy, he represents the perfect son.

Cole Collins
Cole Collins represents the corporate, middle-class white man. He has high expectations for his children and blames their failures on the influence of the McCormick boys, whom he perceives as bad boys. Eventually he realizes his mistake through his interaction with Mason. He also recognizes Tex's bravery.

Jamie Collins
Jamie is Tex's love interest and the only girl among the five Collins children. Like Mason, she is destined to leave the country for the city. This is symbolized by her insistence that the window be kept open while she sleeps. Cole is disturbed by her refusal to adopt conventional ideas of womanhood. As Jamie tells Tex, "being a girl doesn't mean I'm going to be a devoted little mother just like Mona."

Jamie is a feminist. Mason respects her for speaking her mind, especially the way she sees through Lem. Jamie says what she thinks, particularly about sex. She has no intention of risking pregnancy, but she is curious about sex.

Johnny Collins
Johnny is Tex's best friend. He is "flame-haired as a matchstick," and is also described as flighty, which frustrates his brother Cole. He receives a motorcycle for his birthday; unfortunately, the privilege of riding the motorcycle is the way his father tries to maintain his control over the boy.

Johnny dotes on Tex, and they are such good friends that when they pass out on the ride home from the fair they are "flopped together like puppies."

Mona Collins
Mona is Cole's wife. She represent the traditional role of women in marriage: she basically goes along with everything Cole says and lets him make all of the important decisions in their lives.

Robert Collins
Bob Collins is Mason's best friend. As the oldest Collins boy at home, he tries to have the same influence over Jamie and Johnny as Mason has on Tex.

Roger Genet
Roger is a hoodlum and the school bully. It seems that he will eventually follow the path of Lem Peters and the Hitchhiker. Tex gets along with Roger: in fact it is...

(The entire section is 1012 words.)