A Tropical Frontier: The Cow Hunters
Port Sun Publishing, copyright 2014
ISBN – 9781496130471
As a native Floridian whose roots are deeply embedded among the pre-civil war pioneers of Florida, I must give Tim Robinson credit where credit is due. As a boy, I sat and listened to my parents and older friends, family and acquaintances talk of Florida’s pioneer days, many of them having lived while Florida was still open range. Cow hunting today technically remains much the same although now it is confined to ranches and the days of cattle drives to Punta Rassa have long passed away. However, Mr. Robinson has captured the heart and independence of the Florida pioneers and even today’s Florida cowboys in The Cow Hunters.
Billy and Bo Hackensaw are teenaged independent free-spirits when events begin to shape their lives. First, they encounter a brindled cur cow catch dog, Mudge, that battled a wild hog to the death, but was injured in the process. After nursing Mudge back to health, they soon encounter Josiah Walsh, a cattleman from farther north on the Kissimmee River, who makes a deal with them for horses and equipment, then teaches them to catch and mark Spanish cattle from the range. Thanks to Josiah Walsh, their mold is cast as cattlemen, and Billy and Bo never look back.
Throughout, The Cow Hunters reads much like a memoir of a close friend or relative of the Hackensaw boys. They’re followed through the growth of their business, Billy’s courtship and marriage to Becky, the coming of their children, Granny and Elijah coming to live with them after Josiah Walsh’s death, and the relationship between their family and the rest of the Hackensaws a few miles away on the coast. The story is highlighted by the dramatic arrival of Madeline, Bo’s mixed feeling about her, and Little Joe’s mixed feelings about Daisy Parker. The story is complicated by Tommy, a crazy half-breed murderer, and by the onset of the Civil War.
Mr. Robinson’s main characters are likeable, and all of them have both strengths and weaknesses. Billy, Becky and Bo Hackensaw are easy to like. Granny is easy to like but has an inflexible streak honed by hard experience. Little Joe has personal issues left over from his father and his earlier life, but has a huge heart and uses it. I teetered on the edge of feeling some empathy for Tommy because of his inner anger but in the end, I had to feel that Tommy’s misfortunes were his alone to bear.
Congratulations to Tim Robinson for writing a thoroughly enjoyable, and believable Florida historic fiction novel. Anyone with interest in Florida history, cowboy history, antebellum history or just wanting an excellent entertaining story will do well to read A Tropical Frontier: The Cow Hunters. 5-STARS Clabe Polk
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