Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Dry Divide, by Ralph Moody


For starters, this book is loads better than Shaking the Nickel Bush.  Not that it would take much.  Here we rejoin Ralph Moody (now going by 'Bud') sometime after he and Lonnie parted ways in Shaking the Nickel Bush.  Lonnie is never mentioned here, and perhaps it's for the best.  This time around, instead of discovering yet another new and random talent, Moody returns to previously established abilities.  He takes a job working for a wheat farmer, and his work ethic and ingenuity enable him to overcome many seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  If ever there were a man with the soul of an entrepreneur, Ralph Moody is that man.

He manages folks quite well, earning their respect and trust with his own dedication and honesty. His passion and optimism seem to infect others, though he is lucky enough to encounter extremely hard working, capable farm hands.  Of course, he does his best to set them a good example, and Moody is undoubtedly skilled in assessing and making use of the skills of others.

The obnoxious and largely useless Lonnie is replaced by a would-be quack doctor (armed with his own powerful cure-all elixir and a nasty drinking habit) who is actually quite helpful when he's off the sauce.  Moody handles him with skill, respect, and a bit of panache, and the Doc, far from being the low point in the story, is quite likable and entertaining.

Here, too, we see the first real seeds of romance blooming, as Moody encounters a pretty young girl with his sister's knack for helping him figure out how to manage his crazy and ambitious schemes.  I have no idea if anything comes of it--their relationship is largely professional and quite innocent--but she seems to be an excellent match for the capable, hardworking, and innovative Moody. 

Moody delves a bit deeply into the details of all the deals he made hauling wheat for various farmers, so the story's not quite as clean as some of the past entries in the series.  Still, I prefer Moody when he's taking a poorly managed situation and turning it to the good, using his creativity, hard work, and horse-handling skills.  As a result, I was more than willing to put up with the excessive descriptions of his bargaining prowess. 

If you haven't read any of Moody's other autobiographical works, this book--the seventh in the series so far--is not the place to start.  But if you've enjoyed Moody enough to make it this far in the series, you'll probably find this entry solid enough.  It's no Man of the Family or Mary Emma and Company, but it's by no means a bad book.

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