A Thousand Texas Longhorns

Written by Johnny D. Boggs
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

In 1866, Virginia City, in Montana Territory, is inhabited by 5000 people. This is a story of an Ohio man, Nelson Story, living in Virginia City but looking to become a successful rancher. To succeed, he needs the cattle that can be purchased in Texas. He asks a former gold miner, Mason Boone, to advise him because of his knowledge of Texas. Story’s wife Ellen, pregnant with their first child, must remain in Virginia City.

Other major characters include Dr. Beckstead, who befriends Ellen and helps her deal with her pregnancy; two farmers, John Cablin and Steve Grover; and Molly McDonald, a woman who dresses as a man because her job as a bullwhacker hires only men. Molly rescues Constance Becket, who has killed a man when he tried to rape her. They both sign on as bullwhackers and travel west with the wagon train away from those looking for Becket.

Johnny D. Boggs is one of today’s major writers in the western genre. He also writes articles about Western lore for magazines. This novel is long (500 pages), although the fast-paced action makes it difficult to put down. Even though there are a number of subplots, the cattle drive from Texas to Montana is the major story, filled with bandits, bad weather, prairie fires, Indian attacks, disgruntled drovers, and stampedes. The novel has everything a western aficionado would love. It’s written by a masterful storyteller, and I cannot praise this book enough.