The old cowboys gathered around the campfire at Park Avenue and recollected when they broke broncs with the late great Big Boy Matson in the Hi Lo Country. Some of them spoke up as a herd of hydrophobic bison sauntered through the evening and the embers glowed with remembrance -
Tom G: I did not engage the book, I could not get involved, like
Evans’ character could not get involved with any woman. The one time I was
engaged was the winter storm part when they were trying to save the cows and got
caught in the storm. My favorite Evans books are the middle part of Bluefeather Fellini and The
Rounders. This was of a much lesser grade. Grade = C+
Charlie P. – I agree with Tom G. Evans discussion of animals is interesting
but not his descriptions of people.
Everyone drank to excess and engaged in violence, always fighting. Not very
I liked The Last Picture Show and it was regionalism but it had relationships and a
plot. Bogdanovich directed. Grade = C
Ken G.: Mixed emotions. Some good description of cowboying, lots of
weird characters, mostly unfortunates. Josefa was the only likeable person.
The plot was predictable. I knew Big Boy would die and the ending was terrible. Grade = C+
Jack F. Entertaining, good descriptive language. Makes a good movie. 42-43 characters, mostly one dimensional, but none were well developed.
My main take away was, “Don’t never get me one of them red-assed monkeys.” Grade = C+
Bob W: Pass; did not read because traveling in Norway.
Keith: – I enjoyed the book because it described real cowboys. I worked ranches
when young, and spent time in Raton, Cimarron, and Des Moines.
It accurately described cowboys, who are basically blue collar workers who
worked hard and drank and fought on weekends
The menage a trois with a married woman was an unique plot development. Evans is a living legend.
I enjoyed the book and story. Grade = B+
Ron B. – did not attend. Stabilizing blood pressure. Grade = B+
Bob S: – I picked this book for three reasons.
First, I saw the documentary and realized that Max Evans was an important New
Mexico author and I wanted to show the documentary in conjunction with a book.
I chose Hi Lo Country.
Second, it describes a part of the world I have been fascinated with most of my
life: the Hi Lo country.
In Texas where I grew up the Cap Rock is famous. The Staked Plains sits over the
Oglala aquifer. It is a huge elevated plateau or mesa, over 250 miles north to south
and 150 miles from east to west. In Spanish, it was called the Llano Estacado,
translated as staked plains. It is surrounded on three sides by valleys and deep
arroyos; on the north by the Canadian River valley and on the West by the Pecos
River Valley in New Mexico, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llano_Estacado. Palo
Duro Canyon, southeast of Amarillo, is perhaps its most famous valley. When I was an 8 year old kid, starting around 1954 my family would drive out to
Ruidoso in one day every year to spend a month in the cool mountains in the
middle of the summer. Every year we would cross the Staked Plains. I remember
driving past the western edge of the staked plains in the late afternoon and would
begin playing a game to see who could first see the Sacramento Mountains. Later,
when I would go to Philmont Scout Ranch, we would drive across the northern part
of it to Cimarron.
Third, the book describes New Mexico; its land, weather, and people. In my
opinion, that puts it in the category of American regionalism literature. The closest
book that we have read that I can think of is Cannery Row by John Steinbeck.
I thought the book had strong plots, Evans’ willingness to investigate and expose
his emotional feelings for Mona, Big Boy, and his failure as a rancher. The other
thing that was evident to me that was exposed by the documentary and just briefly
touched upon in the book was Evans’ interest in the spiritual realm.
Grade = B
And from elsewhere in and out of the Hi Lo Country:
I enjoyed the first 25% of the book - in fact, I thought it was a cowboy's version of Querencia (a
New Mexico refuge - my favorite NM book). E.g., the coyote hunts in the two books. But the book
soon turned to brawling and carousing and that turned me off.
Could this have been written by the esteemed author of the Bluefeather Fellini tales? Well, yes,
sad to say.
When our hero drew the toughest bronc in the rodeo, I got cynical: thought, Well, of course!
Artificial plot thickener.
Best line: "When he hit the ground he was a steer."
One of the worst: "He sounded like a herd of hydrophobic buffalo tearing through the brush....
there was a splash that sounded as if the moon had rocketed into the Pacific."
There were too many such strained allegories.
I wanted to see the movie, for the sake of comparison, but didn't want to buy it at the Ebay price.
Sorry I won't be at meeting and hear reports from those who have seen the movie and how the
movie compares to the book. I look forward to reading the reviews.
I will not be able to attend the Book Club meeting tomorrow evening--I simply cannot sit for two hours with my current
back problems. I have enclosed my review of The Hi-Lo Country by Max Evans.
I was quite disappointed by The Hi-Lo Country. My disappointment with the book began in the introduction that was
written by Max Evans. In that introduction he spent a great deal of time talking about the drinking and fighting that he
undertook during the writing the book--one of the incidents led to his being forced to type with his left hand and another
led him to being thrown in jail. I found those references strange but once I read the book I could see that he really
relished drinking and fighting--the major activities in which the characters of the book engaged.
When I was in graduate school one of my colleagues and I used to look for what we called "Strange Types" on the
Indiana University campus. Max Evans also was a great collector of "types" in his book. I found few either interesting or
positive characters in the book. I got tired of the narrator and the only person who seemed to be talented enough to rise
above his current life was Big Boy who was a talented individual who spent his time trying to be with a married woman
who apparently had been a prostitute in her earlier life.
In the end Big Boy is killed by Little Boy, a not particularly
impressive individual--by the time he was killed, I really didn't care. The narrator is also hung up on the ex-prostitute and
rejects the possibility of marrying one of the few positive characters in the book. She apparently wised up in the
end marrying a local boy and moving to California.
I have to admit that I found some of the characters funny but in the end I wanted to get a gunny sack and take them down
to the crick (as they say in Utah) and drown them.
Evans says he is going to present an image of The Hi-Lo Country. What he really presents is an image of many of the
lost souls in The Hi-Lo Country and we really learn little about the residents.
Earlier in the year we read a book which covers a similar area, Plainsong. In that book you really learn about the
residents of the area. In the end Plainsong told us about those residents and there were uplifting moments.
I had looking forward to reading The Hi-Lo Country and have no desire to read other books by Evans.
Plainsong was a solid A. This book was a B- at best.
Max Evans’ prose is like cowboy poetry: lightly entertaining, but you don’t want to read an entire book
of it. The Hi Lo Country hit me like a bad Baxter Black rendition from page 1. Is there a plot here, or are we
going to lurch from ‘cutesey’ drunken adventure to overstated drunken mis-adventure? Beyond two
friends seeking the affection of the same married woman, it didn’t come together and certainly didn’t
capture my affections.
There is a great deal that distinguishes P.G. Wodehouse and “Right Ho, Jeeves”
from Max Evans and his work. I love to get to the next chapter of Wodehouse, and I dread picking up
Evans again. The similes throughout are certainly unique but way overwrought. I’ve eaten at Vick’s
Vittles, spent some time on a ranch, lusted after married women, watched my mother-in-law
castrate calves, ridden a bit and got kicked by a horse … but it didn’t make me a Max Evans fan. The
last third of the book brought a plot into the collection, but the awkward date-rape scene (“she didn’t
give me the satisfaction of resisting”) and having Little Boy shoot the superhero pushed the book well
down into my “can’t recommend” category. C