“Golden Crossroads” has all of the things you expect in a Western romance — handsome men and beautiful women; good guys and bad guys, with the good guys winning in the end; Indians; violence; a wise old man; the hero suffering great hardship and difficulty, but gaining success in the end against all odds and winning the beautiful girl; and … pirates.
Pirates? In a Western? Yes. In this novel, at least, but you will have to read it to find out how Gulf Coast pirates are an integral part of the story.
After the Civil War, the Western migration resumed. Some people made it to their destination; some gave up and went back East; and many died on the trail of thirst, hunger, disease, and other natural causes, or from Indian attacks.
“Golden Crossroads” is the tale of Thane Stewart. His family was headed west on the Smokey Hill Trail in Kansas in 1866, where the Kiowa Indians attacked their wagon train, killing all except for ten year old Thane. They took him captive; he lived and traveled with them until he was able to escape to nearby Fort Dodge in 1870.
In 1874, he moved to a ranch southwest of Fort Davis, Texas, and worked as a cowboy. There he met Clint Roberts who became his mentor. They had various adventures and experiences, including dealing with, and becoming, pirates. Thane left that life and moved to the newly founded town of Tascosa in Oldham County, northwest of Amarillo, Texas, where he battled evil, became a success, won a beautiful girl, and, presumably, lived happily ever after.
The largest part of the book covers the period 1874 to 1880. During this time, we meet various characters who, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of writings like the “Arabian Nights,” from time to time, interrupt the main story and take a few pages to tell their own stories. This makes for interesting and fun reading.
“Golden Crossroads” is the latest in a series of ten Western novels by Manhattan author and general building contractor Harold G. Ross, all set in the latter nineteenth century. It is written almost exclusively in first person narrative with very little dialogue.
The title, “Golden Crossroads,” does not seem to be related to the content of the novel, but Ross provides the tie-in by quoting Jeremiah 6:16, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it and you will find rest for your souls.” Thane, from time to time, finds himself at a crossroads in his life and has to make the right decision.
The Christian religion is an important element in Thane’s life. When he was captured by the Indians, all that he had was the shirt on his back and his family Bible, which remained his constant companion throughout the novel. At the end of the story, he and his wife attribute their success to God. Having said this, though, the book is fairly secular, and is not a typical hard-core Christian novel.
The striking cover illustration — a Chinese junk drawn by Olsburg resident Tom Bookwalter — does not seem to relate to the book at all, for the tale is set in western Kansas, southwestern Texas, and southern Louisiana, which are a long way from China.
“Golden Crossroads” is a quick read and an enjoyable experience.