The Old West and “The Honyocker” – A Book Review

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“Honyocker” is a contemptuous word applied to the Hunyaks, the people of Slavic descent who (after leaving other states such as Missouri) try to make it as homesteaders in Montana.  The Montana cattlemen in Giles Lutz’s interesting and exciting Western, The Honyocker, from 1961, resent and oppose the homesteaders, among whom is virile Ashel Backus.  A struggling farmer, Ashel is forced by the deeds of his no-good brothers to start working off a debt to a cattleman named Milo Vaughn.  Later, fortunately, Ashel is actually hired by Vaughn, but has a monstrous enemy in Dandy Cabe.

The intense difficulties of keeping poverty at bay is a theme here.  We see a lot of human depravity too–the depravity of violence done to other men.  The Honyocker is plainly written and, within the limitations of Old West mythology, honest.  A Western with a good plot can be a delight.  This one is, and it’s not very long either.   

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