High Rider

Written by Bill Gallaher
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

It is 1867, and former slave John Ware can now leave Georgetown, South Carolina, a free man. Hoping for a decent future anywhere other than South Carolina or the Deep South, John gathers his belongings and begins his long 1,000-mile walk to Texas. He has heard of ranches that raise horses and cattle. Eventually he arrives at the Flint Springs Cattle Company, a small ranch owned by Amos and Ellie Cole, along with their only son, Emmett. John has a natural affinity for horses and impresses Amos by riding a bucking horse that has never been ridden before. Color-blind, Amos Cole hires John, where he stays until 1878. When he learns of a cattle drive, he decides to become a cattle drover and heads north to Ogallala, Nebraska.

Eventually, John travels farther north to Alberta, Canada, where he buys land, marries and settles down, earning a reputation and the respect as a cowboy worth his salt, one who can ride with the best white cowboys.

This novel is based on the true account of ex-slave John Ware, who meets with discrimination wherever he travels. Because of his positive attitude and love for life, he is able to convince those he meets that he is capable of living a decent life as his own boss. The author takes liberties with filling in dialog and including several adventures, along with renaming some characters. This story is historical writing at its best, with details of everyday life in the West, the heartfelt troubles John faced throughout his travels, and interactions that provide depth and life to every character.

If you want to comprehend the pain that former slaves endured after the Civil War, become enlightened with this book.