If you’ve read Glenn McCarty’s The Misadventured Summer of Tumbleweed Thompson, you’ve heard about US Marshall Dead-Eye Dan. And if you’ve read McCarty’s Junction Tales, you’ve met Dan face-to-face. (For the record, I highly recommend that you do both of those things.) But Dead-Eye Dan and the Cimarron Kid dives deeper into the world of Tumbleweed and tells the sort of tale Eugene might have read and savored—one that might have inspired him to seek his own adventures. For this is a tale of Dan himself.
The book opens upon a mysterious man who has no recollection of his own name, how he injured his head, or why he’s stranded on the banks of the Cimarron River. Before long, his story intersects with that of a widow and her young son, and as he helps them tend to their peach orchard and fend off the local thugs, he begins to gather in pieces of his memories. He starts to remember, bit by bit, who he is and how he wound up in the wilderness.
This kind of story—the kind centered around amnesia—is painfully easy to get wrong. But Glenn McCarty gets it right, and he makes it a whole lot of fun for readers to keep half-a-step ahead of “the man” as his life comes slowly into focus. As our hero struggles to piece together who he was before his injury, the story explores a big question: “What makes us who we are?” The things that come back first belong to his body—he’s a crack shot with a rifle; an adept swimmer; he’s accustomed to life outdoors. He recovers physical skills before he gains access to his memories or even his own name. And this makes his recovery compelling.
In Dead-Eye Dan and the Cimarron Kid (in all his books, really), McCarty gets the trifecta of a great read-aloud just right: the story is a whole lot of fun to listen to (there were belly laughs all around the table as I read); it’s delightful to read aloud, especially in a gritty, gravelly, US Marshall voice (which I’m sure sounded awful, but I couldn’t help myself—the words wanted to be read that way!). And it’s built on a solid foundation: the story asks big questions and gives the characters room to work out the answers.
Dead-Eye Dan and the Cimarron Kid is a fun side adventure in the world of Tumbleweed Thompson that shows precisely why Glenn McCarty is now one of our family’s favorite authors, beloved by everyone in our house, ages five to forty-two. If you’re new to the series, you could begin with The Misadventured Summer of Tumbleweed Thompson—I wouldn’t discourage you. Or you could jump right in here, with Dead-Eye Dan, and work your way backward through the stories. However you approach the works of Glenn McCarty, you’ll be richly rewarded.
NOTE: This article first appeared on http://littlebookbigstory.com/
Dead-Eye Dan and the Cimarron Kid
Glenn McCarty; Aedan Peterson (2021)