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The Callings

Texas Tech Univerity Press (2002)


ISBN 0-89672-494-8 - $24.95 (hardcover)

The South Plains, 1873. Bison herds are dwindling on the Kansas prairie. Logan Fletcher, a young faith healer from Kentucky labors as a skinner on a buffalo hunting crew, waiting for the taming of the plains and the chance to spread the Word to the coming immigrants.

On the reservation near Fort Sill, the U.S. government withholds food in retaliation for Comanche and Kiowa depredation in Texas. Cuts Something, an aging Comanche war chief, returns to his old home on the Pease River to revive his badger medicine. His quest is rewarded, and he leads his demoralized band back to the bison-rich Texas Panhandle.

Logan’s crew abandons the Kansas bone field and heads into the Panhandle, where the brutal plains life erodes his idealism and raises questions he is ill prepared to answer.

The inevitable confrontation of two men – each from an arrogant, expansionist culture – draws in an assortment of characters cast of the harsh land itself and just as gripping: Bob Durham, the former slave, whose skill as a plainsman saves Logan’s crew time and again; Ezra Higginbotham, the hunter whose determination to exploit the last of the southern bison herd imperils everyone around him; Elizabeth Keltner, the young woman who survives cholera and capture by Kiowas, then gives Logan reason to live; and Abraham, the giant Tonkawa scout who eats the flesh of his dead enemies and endures unspeakable torture to lead the army to Cuts Something’s band.

The final clash tests the depths of Cuts Something’s resolve and compels Logan to confront the racism, brutality, and moral paradox of the American frontier in all its complexities.

"Vivid, realistic, and brutal."

  • Elmer Kelton

"The scenes could support a movie script, so closely are they detailed. Chappell may be at his best describing the warriors' horsemanship and the desolation that follows each attack...Those of us who have not yet become addicted to Western novels will be compelled to read more, though few will match the emotion and high quality of writing that converge in The Callings."

  • Jane Manaster, Southwestern American Literature

"A fine adventure story of the West Texas frontier...Henry Chappell idealizes no imaginary nobility of either Native or Euro-Americans. Nor does he hedge on the darkness to which human nature can descend."

  • Fred Rathjen, author of The Panhandle Frontier

"In his first novel, veteran Plano writer Henry Chappell spins a well-crafted tale that draws both from history and from his disciplined imagination."

  • Si Dunn, The Dallas Morning News

"The difference in Chappell's excellent historical novel is his skill in presenting the contrasting cultures of Indians, and the soldiers and hunters pre-ordained to win the contest."

  • Mary Kate Tripp, Amarillo Globe News

"Chappell's The Callings stands on its own as a serious literary treatment of a still underrepresented historical period. He represents West Texas with particularly compelling force and evocative language."

  • Alex Hunt, Texas Books in Review