When Ralph is 8 years old, his family moves from New Hampshire to Colorado. The year is 1906 and they move because Ralph's dad has been suffering from lung problems from working in the woolen mills. When they arrived at their new "ranch" there isn't much there; just a few rundown buildings. Over the next few years, with a lot of hard work and help from kind neighbors, they make the ranch turn a decent profit. Ralph has the time of his life, learning to ride, shoot and swear with the best of the cowboys. But on a ranch, one bad year can bring everything to the brink of disaster. When the disaster comes, Ralph knows it is time for him to take his place in the world of men.
This is a great coming of age story. The best thing about it is that it is a biography, rather than a fictional story. Ralph's descriptions of his life on the range and the colorful people he meets is just as engaging and endearing as the Little House on the Prairie books. It is better suited to boys than girls, and it has a fair bit of swearing in a couple of the chapters: but it is authentic swearing, not gratuitous. I read it aloud to my family, and just "modified" some of the language. Originally written in 1950, it is truly a great children's classic that shows a genuine slice of life from early 20th century western America. (260 p)