The Cowboy and the Cossack by Clair Huffaker


It was a tweet by Nancy Pearl that drew my attention to this 1973 novel. For me it was an entertaining cowboy story set in Russia with all the stock characters, including a large herd of cattle.

It is told from the point of view of a young cowboy, Levi, named for the jeans. The story begins as the cowboys and their herd arrive in Vladivostok on their way to deliver the herd to a town hundreds of miles away. They are met with a port official trying to extract money and a group of Cossacks who explain they are there to protect them on their journey. They drive the herd to shore far enough away from the port to avoid paying the official. The story of their connection with the Cossacks takes us through the book.

The head of the cowboys and the head of the Cossacks are painted as always able to sense danger before it happens and always having a good response. Though initially wary of each other, Levi observes they are in accord on plans to overcome whatever comes their way. The biggest danger they encounter are Tartars, who appear to be even more fierce fighters than the Cossacks. You might think this was exhausting to go from one disaster to the next, but there were few surprises.

The author wrote more than a dozen novels, a dozen screenplays, and scripts for TV shows. According to Wikipedia, he attended Princeton, Columbia, and the Sorbonne and served in World War II.

Clair Huffaker, The Cowboy and the Cossack, Trident Press, 1973, 352 pages. (I listened to the audiobook.) Available in the public library.

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