The World in Pancho’s Eyes

Written by J. P. S. Brown
Review by Adelaida Lower

When Mikey is born in August of 1930, his father, Paul Summers, is working hard as a cowboy. He is also spending on whiskey the legacy of the family of Mikey’s mother, Maggie. Maggie knows this, but is “too wild and volatile to stop it.” These are the hard days of the Great Depression. In Arizona’s cattle country, the ranches are struggling with the drought. Children grow up in the great outdoors, on their own. Mikey has what he needs: his best buddy, daredevil Billy Shane, his dog Baxter, and, especially, Pancho, his horse. Young Mikey finds in Pancho’s gaze everything that is “good about fathers, mothers, horses, dirt, dogs, cows, trees, grass, bosom pals…” Mikey’s world, however, is anything but easy, and there are plenty of heartaches as he grows older.

When a novel mirrors the author’s early life, a certain degree of finger-pointing is almost expected, but you won’t find it here. J.P.S. Brown, cattleman and fiction writer, looks back realistically, without anger or regret. The World in Pancho’s Eyes, his newest novel, is above all a loving portrait of the Southwest of his childhood. Brown’s depiction of the harsh beauty of the country and its multi-ethnic characters is rich in detail. But he is nothing short of wonderful when the subject is horses, cattle, or the dangerous work of cowboys. A delight to read.