Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Crossers by Phillip Caputo- a book report

This is a very special novel for people living in Southern Arizona and particularly for hikers, mountain climbers, birders or just plain motor tourists. The reason is that it mentions places that are so familiar to many of us. It centers on the San Rafael Valley south of Patagonia. It includes the Canelo Hills, the Huachuca, Whetstones, Mustangs, Santa Rita’s and other mountain ranges. It mentions the Gadston Hotel in Douglas, the Steak Out Restaurant and the cattle shipping yard in Sonoita, Nogales in the USA and Mexico, the Holding Center in Florence where illegal immigrants are processed, Patagonia and south into Mexico. The Rialto Theatre, University Medical Center in Tucson and the Arizona Daily Star are made a part of the places visited and the newspaper read. All are familiar to me and friends from the Southern Arizona Hiking Club (SAHC).
It is a novel, but it is so close to the truth, that it is almost like reading a newspaper account of happenings today. It begins at the turn of the century of 1900 and ends in 2004. It follows the lives of families who settled down into ranching after exploits soldiering in the Mexican War of Independence. We get to know these people as they come to be embroiled into conflict with drug runners and illegal immigrants who use their ranch as the pathway into El Norte as they refer to America.
One of the main characters loses his wife as a victim of the flight from Boston that flew into one of the World Trade Towers. After contemplating suicide he opts instead to seclude himself in the wilds of Arizona living on the ranch owned by his uncle. After a time he comes alive again as he learns the life of a rancher and does find love. We learn much about the cattle industry in the desert country and ride horses into the canyons searching for livestock or hunting.
This is one of those books that stop the present day story by returning to the early 1900’s. This is the author’s way of tying it all together. The major conflict of the story is a consequence of what happened in earlier days.
The people seem real. You will care what happens to them. There is beauty, love, hatred and greed all mixed together.
If the story took place somewhere else it would still be interesting but when you add in the familiarity of the area, for those of us who have been there so often, it comes alive.

Jack B. Walters
February 2, 2010

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