March 14, 2016

The Prognosticator

Spoon, Dr. Robert Greer's twelfth novel, which is not a part of his CJ Floyd series, is a coming of age story using a western-type plot set in the 20th century. Instead of cattlemen against homesteaders, it’s ranchers versus an energy corporation. The Acota Coroporation wants the coal and natural gas beneath the ranches, especially the rich coal deposits beneath the Willow Creek Ranch. 

The story opens in the autumn of 1991 in Hardin, Big Horn County, Montana. TJ Darley, the 19-year-old narrator, picks up a hitchhiker “wearing a $250 5X Resistol cowboy hat and no shoes.” The hitchhiker, whose name is Arcus Witherspoon, prefers to be called Spoon. He is “part-black, part-Indian cowboy searching for his roots.” Although Spoon has just been fired from a ranch, TJ offers him a job working on the Darley’s Willow Creek Ranch, but he must convince his skeptical father to hire him. To convince Bill Darley that he can do a good days work, Spoon negotiates a deal. He says he can cut a 180-acre field of alfalfa, bale the alfalfa, pick up the bales and stack them “neat as a pin” in 24 hours. Bill Darley says it’s impossible. Twenty-four hours later Spoon has the job.

It’s not long before Spoon senses a problem the Darleys are having, which, to TJ, proves he is clairvoyant. “Easy” Ed Koffman, representative of the Acota Energy Corporation, visits and again tries to get the Darleys to sell. Again they refuse, and he warns them he will get what he wants. Spoon sees Koffman leaving and, sizing up the man, warns the Darleys that trouble is coming. Bill Darley doesn't think Spoon is a prognosticator, but his wife Marva and TJ do after Acota Energy Corporation buys the neighboring ranches, leaving the Darleys to fight Acota alone.

While helping the Darleys fight off Ed Koffman and his muscle Matt Rodue, whom he sees as a physical threat, Spoon continues to search for his roots. His grandfather was one of the Buffalo soldiers who settled somewhere in the west and married an Indian woman. However, he isn’t sure to which tribe his grandmother belonged. 

Spoon is a feel good story showing that individuals can fight city hall, or, specifically, a big, powerful corporation. At first, like Bill Darley, I was skeptical about Spoon because his prognostications were so obvious. He had lost his land in Ohio and deduced from his keen observation of people that Acota Energy Corporation was trouble. Then I realized I was seeing him through the 19-year-old eyes of TJ, who idealizes him. For TJ, Spoon had “a special gift he called charm. A gift that he used to help me and my family rescue our lives and way of life before he moved on.” 

Although I enjoyed the novel, it didn’t engage me as Greer’s other novels did. I felt it is the type of novel one reads to relax and not have to think. Maybe Greer wrote the novel to get away for a while from CJ Floyd. Spoon is certainly easier on the nerves.

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