Gone to Texas
Jackson based this young adult novel on her great-grandfather’s experiences going West in 1850. Recently-orphaned Ephraim Darter, 14, is bored working the family farm and longs for adventure. He teams up with Finis Whitefield, an ex-university boy down on his luck, leaving college to take a teaching job in Texas. Their adventures include having to leave Ephraim’s elderly dog behind with strangers, helping to find a lost child, and an encounter with a medicine-show man. Then they fall in with slave-catchers, who are searching for a runaway slave boy hiding in the medicine-show wagon.
The book could easily serve as supplementary material for middle- or junior-high-level students who are reluctant studiers of the Westward Movement. The boys in this tale only reach Texas in the afterword, but the book brings one particular westward journey to life more fully than a textbook could. The author anticipates the book’s use in schools by including a glossary, bibliography, and a recipe for food cooked en route.