English Creek Synopsis

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English Creek The days of arriving summer, the rangeland green at last across northern Montana, the hundred-mile horizon of the Rocky Mountains, form the backdrop for Jick McCaskill's coming-of-age late in the Depression. Jick is fourteen and able now to share in the full life of family and town and ranch in the sprawling Two Medicine country. His father is a roustabout range rider turned forest ranger; his mother, from a local ranching family, is a practical woman with a peppery wit. His idolized brother Alec is eighteen and strong-minded, set on marriage to a town girl and on a livelihood as a cowboy. Alec's choice of "cow chousing" throws the McCaskills into conflict, and through Jick's eyes we see a family at a turning point—"where all four of our lives made their bend."

The course of the book follows the events of the Two Medicine country's summer, a season of humor and escapade as well as drama. Jick accompanies his father on a horseback journey to count sheep onto Mountain rangeland allotted by the national forest—a routine yearly duty that leads to the revelation of a long-kept family secret. The Fourth of July, a time of rodeo and picnic and all-night square dance, is the summer's social zenith, brought to life by Jick's journey from innocence. But it is an end-of-August forest fire that brings the book, as well as the McCaskill family's struggle within itself, to a stunning climax.

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