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A satisfying ending indeed | HPPR

This is Linda Allen in Amarillo, Tx for High Plains Radio Readers Fall Read Book Bytes.

Annie Proulx’s 2002 novel That Old Ace in the Hole is set in a specific place and time, but the theme that runs through the story is timeless and universal.

Set in the fictional Northeast Texas county and city of Woolybucket, the slow-burning storyline centers on a young man trying to find and define his place in life. Bob Dollar, 25, grew up in Denver and lived with his uncle Tam after his parents abandoned him when he was a young child. When Bob takes a job as a site scout for a giant corporation called Global Pork Rind because any job will do, he is amazed and quickly charmed by his remote territory.

Bob moves into the bunk shack with no amenities at LaVon Fronk and works around the lack of electricity and running water to enjoy coffee on the sunrise-facing porch and marvel at the clouds, night sky, and flat openness of the grounds.
his employment; however, is problematic. Global Pork Rind is engaged in the production of pork units and is looking for ranchers willing to surrender their long-held lands to huge commercial pig farms.

Bob is advised by his boss, Mr. Ribeye Cluke, not to talk about why he’s arrived in the tiny town where every new person is bound to arouse suspicion, so he invents the ruse that he’s scouting out potential luxury properties and begins Learning to look out for the names and history of the locals to find someone willing to sell.


Gaspirtz, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons


Proulx plays with the character and place names in That Old Ace in the Hole in a way that adds a satisfying element of humor to the novel.

The character and place names in the book are wild and imaginative and got me thinking about what Ms. Proulx suggests and conveys with place names like Cowboy Rose, Twospot and Struggle. Francis Scott Keyes-ter (Keister) is another satirical name, as is Coolbreeze Fronk, the landlady’s son, and Brother Mesquite, a cowboy monk and veteran team roper. The names of actual towns, such as Borger, Pampa, and Amarillo, as well as well-known landowners, are interspersed, giving a more defined sense of place.

Bob Dollar begins to listen, record, and learn about local history, families and their relationships, and the evolution of devices that evolved ranch life, such as barbed wire and windmills. The recently added pig farms are an unwelcome feature of the flat landscape and most ranchers want nothing to do with them.

This subtle narrative kept my interest using simple, clear language yet colorful, thought-provoking descriptive passages. Annie Proulx has captured the essence of rural ranching communities and the tough, cantankerous characters who cling to the countryside and its fading lifestyle.

In the end, young Bob realizes that he has found his place to pursue and pursue his humble ambitions, and has earned the grudging respect of the locals for his tenacity and bravery. A satisfying ending indeed.

This is Linda Allen from High Plains Radio Readers Book Club.

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