Reading Owen Wister

wisterowen1Owen Wister, The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains (1902) — I started reading this novel January 8, 2009. I was hooked by the first paragraph. I suppose some ‘hawsses’ really are giddy pranksters. Wister’s book is a classic, the first in the western genre, and unexcelled. Humor I can appreciate appears on every page. Bits are stories in their own right, and fun to read aloud. You can hear how the Virginian sounds from the way the author crafts his dialogue. Wister and Theodore Roosevelt were close friends. The complete text of the novel is available online at Project Gutenberg. You could have a look there, then decide whether to get a hard copy. It can be ordered at Amazon here.

Excerpt from Chapter 5—”Enter the Woman”

“We are taking steps,” said Mr. Taylor. “Bear Creek isn’t going to be hasty about a schoolmarm.”

“Sure,” assented the Virginian. “The children wouldn’t want yu’ to hurry.”

But Mr. Taylor was, as I’ve indicated, a serious family man. The problem of educating his children could appear to him in no light except a sober one.

“Bear Creek,” he said, “don’t want the experience they had over at Calef. We must not hire an ignoramus.”

“Sure!” assented the Virginian again.

“Nor we don’t want no gad-a-way flirt,” said Mr. Taylor.

“She must keep her eyes on the blackboa’d,” said the Virginian, gently.

“Well, we can wait till we get a guaranteed article,” said Mr. Taylor.

. . . . The Virginian was now looking over the letter musingly, and with awakened attention.

“‘Your very sincere spinster,'” he read aloud and slowly.

“I guess that means she’s forty,” said Mr. Taylor.

“I reckon she is about twenty,” said the Virginian. And again he fell to musing over the paper that he held.

“Her handwriting ain’t like any I’ve saw,” pursued Mr. Taylor. “But Bear Creek would not object to that, provided she knows ‘rithmetic and George Washington, and them kind of things.”

“I expect she is not an awful sincere spinster,” surmised the Virginian, still looking at the letter, still holding it as if it were some token.”

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

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