Mack Hammeker: Colorado Bound
Tressler’s Mack Hammeker: Colorado Bound was my first foray into “Westerns.” Despite loving historical fiction, I never really got into this era and place. I’m really glad I gave this book a try! Mack Hammeker is a fascinating glimpse into a world just past, when the US nation was still young and growing. Living in a fixed place had its risks. Drought and storms could wreak havoc on a farm. Yet for all of that, attempting the journey west was fraught with peril at every turn. Floods, tornadoes, scarcity of game, broken wagons, injured animals/people, and trail fever are just a few of the calamities awaiting intrepid pioneers.
Mack Hammeker is a retired bounty hunter who now lives on a quietly failing farm with a wife and four children. When a terrible tragedy cloaked in hypocritical goodness takes Margaret Hammeker from her family, Mack must re-evaluate what is best for them. What he really wants in life is to go back west and set up a cattle ranch of his own, a legacy he would be able to leave his children. Manna from heaven in the form of unexpected bounties gives Mack the means to make his dream reality.
Joining with a wagon train, Mack and his family embark on the long, deadly journey west. Complications leave Hammeker, his family, and their travelling companions, Samantha and Allister Hamilton, stuck in the town of Laporte, beside the Cache le Poudre River. Mack and company decide to make Laporte their home, but a recently arrived Jack Slade, and his wife, who are running the newly built Virginia Dale stagecoach line station, take umbrage at the former bounty-hunter and set out to do him in. Along the way, Hammeker and his family make new friends with the Hamiltons, with Antoine Janis, Texas Hank, Red Feather, and several native Arapaho, among others.
This story really drew me in, making me feel I was a part of it, not an outside observer. It was fast-paced and well-written, and, so far as I know, the historical points were well-researched. I loved that reading this recalled to me my youthful grade schools days playing Oregon Trail. Familiar places from the Oregon Trail game showed up, too, like Fort Laramie and the Platte River. One of my favorite parts is when old Red Feather carries out a vigil for the sick travelers where he asks the ancestral spirits to heal them or help them move on. Two owls land on the infirmary roof, and, after they fly away, a large raven lands on the roof as well, telling Red Feather that two of the sick ones would heal, but one would succumb to the trail fever. My only dislike was that from “The Reckoning” to the end of the book, things seemed a little disjointed. But it didn’t really detract from the book.
Recommended, especially if you enjoy westerns or historical fiction.
C. Michael Tressler
Dog Ear Publishing