Mr. Wahlquist in Yellowstone and Other Stories

This well-designed book with cover an by Royden Card will be warmly welcomed by Douglas Thayer’s many readers. The stories are vintage Thayer, well-honed, not recognizably Mormon, but definitively Western. The five stories present themes familiar to Thayer’s readers: young men in search of themselves, testing their wits and their courage against a challenging landscape. Sometimes in a cowboy-Indian tradition, they test their manhood, but unlike the old heroes they are not always victorious, and they are not “macho.” They doubt themselves, they are intrinsically gentle, and somewhere they have mothers who worry.

The title story speaks in the voice of a young man working at Yellowstone Lake as a summer ranger. He is befriended by an elderly couple who have been summer campers for more than forty years. Mrs. Wahlquist feeds him and shares worries about her husband. Since his retirement from Sears, Mr. Wahlquist has developed kidney ailments and a melancholy turn of mind. “My husband was born at least a hundred years too late,” she says, and the young narrator understands. Their trailer is a “small museum” full of books, maps, Indian artifacts, and photographs of famous Indian chiefs. Wahlquist “had spent forty years visiting the places he’d read about in the accounts left by the trappers, mountain men, explorers, and Indians. He liked to stand at the place and read from what had been written” (82).

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