Time of the Rabies: A Novella

Robert Laxalt, Author University of Nevada Press $16 (92p) ISBN 978-0-87417-350-5
Nevada ranchers and cowboys fight a 1920s rabies epidemic in this straightforward, warmly written western novella by historical novelist Laxalt (Dust Devils; Private War). Toward sundown on a spring day, a coyote viciously attacks one of sheep rancher Pete Lorda's ewes, in plain sight of a pair of Basque herders. Dumbfounded, the herders kill the coyote and bring its body and their tale back to the ranch. An examination by a veterinarian proves what Lorda already suspects: the coyote had rabies. Soon after the coyote attack, another of Lorda's ranch hands is chased by a rabid mountain lion, and it becomes clear that a full-blown epidemic is threatening the surrounding countryside. The job of battling roaming bands of deranged, flesh-hungry rabid coyotes falls to Tex and Slim, Lorda's veteran, shotgun-armed cowboys. Already difficult, their task is complicated by the actions of Michel, a stubborn young Basque herder in training and the love interest of Lorda's daughter. When Michel's collie is infected, the boy persists in believing he can nurse it back to health, endangering himself and everyone else on the ranch. A dramatic final rescue scene caps the cowboys' battle against the spread of the deadly disease. In this latest installment in his Basque series, Laxalt once again describes the lives of Basque immigrants in the western U.S., painting a convincing picture of ranch life. Though perhaps more suited to young adult audiences, the simple tale ably dramatizes a historic plague threatening man and beast alike. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Genre: Fiction
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