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The Legend of Colton H. Bryant
Synopses & Reviews
From the bestselling author of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight and Scribbling the Cat, the unforgettable true story of a boy who comes of age in the oil-fields and open plains of Wyoming; a heartrending story of the human spirit that lays bare where it is that wisdom truly resides
Colton H. Bryant was one of Wyoming's native sons and grown by that high, dry place, he never once wanted to leave it. "Wyoming loves me," he said, and it was true. Wyoming roughneck, wild, open, and searingly beautiful loved him, and Colton loved it back. As a child in school, Colton never could force himself to focus on his lessons. Instead, he'd plan where he'd go fishing later, or he'd wonder how many jackrabbits he might find on his favorite hunting patch, or he'd dream about the rides he would take on the wild mare he was breaking. "At my funeral, you'll all feel sorry for making me waste so much time in school," he said to his best friend Jake and it was true.
Two things got Colton through the boredom of school and the neighborhood "K-mart cowboys" who bullied him: His best friend Jake and his favorite mantra, a snatch of a saying he heard on TV: Mind over matter which meant to him: If you don't mind, it don't matter. Colton and Jake grew up wanting nothing more than the freedom to sleep out under the great Wyoming night sky, to hunt and fish and chase the horizon and to be just like Colton's dad, a strong and gentle man of few words. When it was time for Colton to marry and make money on his own, he took up as a hand on an oil rig. It was dangerous work, but Colton was the third generation in his family to work on the oil patch and he claimed it was in his blood. And anyway, he joked, he always knew he'd die young.
Colton did die young, and he died on the rig falling to his death because the drilling company had neglected to spend two thousand dollars on the mandated safety rails that would have saved his life. His family received no compensation. But they didn't expect to. They knew the company's ways, and after all as Colton would have said: Mind over matter.
In Scribbling the Cat, Alexandra Fuller brought us the examined life of a Rhodesian soldier; now in her inimitable poetic voice and with her pitch-perfect ear for dialogue she brings before us the life of someone much closer to home, as unexpected as he is iconic. The moving, tough, and in many ways quintessentially American story of Colton H. Bryant's life could not be told without also telling the story of the land that grew himthe beautiful and somehow tragic Wyoming; the land where there are still such things as cowboys roaming the plains, where it's relationships that get you through, and where a just, soulful, passionate man named Colton H. Bryant lived and died.
"Fuller, author of the bestselling Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, narrates the tragically short life of Colton H. Bryant, a Wyoming roughneck in his mid-20s who in 2006 fell to his death on an oil rig owned by Patterson — UTI Energy. A Wyoming resident herself since 1994, Fuller is expert in evoking the stark landscape and recreating the speech and mentality of her adopted state's native sons. Along the way, she sheds light on the tough, unpredictable lives of Wyoming's oilmen and the toll exacted on their families. Though the book is wonderfully poignant and poetic and reads more like a novel than biography, Fuller acknowledges that she has taken narrative liberties, composed dialogue, disregarded certain aspects of Colton's life and occasionally juggled chronology 'to create a smoother story line,' leading readers to wonder what is true and what invented for dramatic purposes. As such, it is difficult to assess Fuller's simplistic conclusion that the company's drive to cut costs killed the young man, though she is right to highlight the strikingly high number of fatalities in the industry. As a touching portrait of a life cut short and a perceptive immersion in the environment that nurtures such men, Fuller's volume excels, but in terms of absolute veracity it should be read with caution." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"At first it would seem that 'The Legend of Colton H. Bryant' marks an extraordinary change of pace for accomplished writer Alexandra Fuller, whose earlier books, 'Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight' and 'Scribbling the Cat,' are detailed, realistic narratives, both set in Africa, in some of its most inhospitable climes and dire circumstances. 'The Legend of Colton H. Bryant' is set in Wyoming (where... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) Fuller now resides with her husband and children). It is short, incantatory and, although true, cast as a fable, a story of why-things-are-the-way-they-are, a little like Rudyard Kipling's 'How the Leopard Got His Spots.' But this short 'legend' has a great deal in common with the African books. They all concern men who fall helplessly in love with impossible landscapes and hopeless situations. Something within them connects to the hard times outside them, and that connection increases in strength until it snaps. It never would have occurred to Fuller's father, for instance, or to the soldier in 'Scribbling the Cat,' or to Colton Bryant to say or think: 'A furnished apartment in a temperate climate might be nicer — and more healthy — for me. I could get a job mowing golf courses.' That would be safe, but boring. Colton Bryant's fate had probably been sealed before he was born. He came from a long line of hard-luck, laconic, semi-pioneer families who have hunted, fished, broken horses, ridden bulls and eked out a precarious living working in oil fields all over the American West. Growing up in the '80s in the town of Evanston, Wyo., Bryant was wired somewhat differently from other kids. From his first days in elementary school, when he was on Ritalin, he was mercilessly bullied by a cadre of what the author calls 'bored little Kmart cowboys,' mean creeps who taunted him endlessly as a 'Retard!' all the way through his high school years. In the culture of working-class Wyoming, parents didn't complain to teachers, nor were there counselors around to promote fair play. The only advice anyone ever seemed to give anybody was to 'cowboy up, cupcake,' which translates to: No matter how awful this experience is, just swallow it down and don't complain, because life is going to get a thousand times worse for you, and never get better. So cowboy up! Bryant grew up in a Mormon household with a dad who worked on the rigs and an older brother who broke Bryant's nose four times in the course of their childhood and classmates who taunted him and two sisters who defended him. He loved to hunt and fish and ride, but he had a mulish streak, to put it mildly: He spent hours swimming in an icy pond trying to retrieve his friend's first shot goose, except that Bryant couldn't swim and almost died. He almost sliced his foot off while chopping wood but wouldn't get into the neighbor's truck for fear of leaving bloodstains and almost died again from loss of blood. He drove out into Wyoming snow in terrible weather and stalled the car. His passengers resigned themselves to death, but Bryant stopped a train with his headlights and saved the day, just barely. It's a life made up of half-trained mustangs and pickup trucks with gun racks and innumerable cans of Mountain Dew. And hard-won happiness and some genuine fun. Then Bryant married and, when he found out his wife was pregnant, sobbed to his sister, 'What if he's like me? What if he gets teased and he has to struggle like I did?' By this time he was working on the rigs, 12-hour shifts in incendiary heat waves and blasting blizzards. Death, which had been flirting with him all along, took him. Colton Bryant — kind, handsome, loving, brave, decent — became a casualty of the rigs when he was only 25. To her credit, Fuller doesn't make this merely a story of capitalist predators and the oppressed underclass. The oil company behaved abominably here, of course, but that's just a fraction of this 'legend.' One thinks of sometime oilman Dick Cheney's dazzlingly minimalist response to a journalist's question about polls showing most Americans want out of Iraq: 'So?' But predatory rich men couldn't exist without a full complement of poor men who take a perverse pride in their ability to bear hardship and 'cowboy up.' In the weeks and months after Bryant's death, his grave became a de facto shrine in the community, decorated with 'cans of chewing tobacco, gallons of Mountain Dew.' It was as though, in his inarguable innocence, he embodied all the injustices perpetrated on his luckless peers. This legend is not just about injustice and the unfeeling comment, 'So?' It's much more like Kipling's 'Just So Stories.' It's about how the leopard got his spots. About why Colton H. Bryant died so young." Reviewed by Carolyn See, who can be reached at www.carolynsee.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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From the bestselling author of "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" comes the unforgettable true story of a boy who comes of age in the oil fields and open plains of Wyoming.
A heartrending story of the human spirit from the author of the bestselling Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight
Alexandra Fuller returns with the unforgettable true story of Colton H. Bryant, a soulful boy with a mustang-taming heart who comes of age in the oil fields and open plains of Wyoming. After surviving a sometimes cruel adolescence with his own brand of optimistic goofiness, Colton goes to work on an oil rig-and there the biggest heart in the world can't save him from the new, unkind greed that has possessed his beloved Wyoming during the latest boom.
Colton's story could not be told without telling of the land that grew him, where the great high plains meet the Rocky Mountains to create a vista of lonely beauty. It is here that the existence of one boy is a true story as deeply moving as the life that inspired it.
About the Author
Alexandra Fuller was born in England in 1969 and in 1972 she moved with her family to a farm in Rhodesia. After that country’s civil war in 1981, the Fullers moved first to Malawi, then to Zambia. Fuller received a B.A. from Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. She is the author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, a national bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book of 2002, and a finalist for the Guardian First Book Award, and Scribbling the Cat, winner of the 2005 Ulysses Award for Art of Reportage. Fuller lives in Wyoming with her husband and children.
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