Texas Christian University Press is doing a service to serious Western fiction with its Texas Tradition Series.
The fourth volume in the series of reprints, following novels by Texans Benjamin Capps, Bryan Woolley and the superb Elmer Kelton, is this 1967 novel by Robert Flynn, another distinguished achievement.
"North to Yesterday" is a trail-drive story. A misfit crew sets out to drive a herd of longhorns north to the railroad. No matter that the cattle are wild, the trail closed, the drovers inept and the way uncertain. Each man, foolish, impassioned, blown up with dream, must seek his destiny.
On the way, they face adversity--stampedes, river crossings, horse thieves, dry stretches, even the responsibility of a young girl with a baby. They proceed into disgrace--herding on foot, milking cows, tolerating a female cowboy and sometimes dying. But the living plug onward, mesmerized by hope.
At Trail's End, all turns to dust, the cattle market has gone bust, the boom town has turned respectable. Broke, afoot, mocked, cheated and whipped, the last two start walking back to Texas. But they have just a glimmer that it's worth it, somehow, to live as a human being.
"North to Yesterday" is an eloquent, robust, inventive, crazily comic and richly humane work of fiction. It deserves to be back in print and to stay there.