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The Son –

The Son

Sunday , 25, December 2022 Leave a comment

Philipp Meyer’s The Son is a novel covering four generations in Texas from the 1830s to modern times. I had heard about the AMC T.V. series and my interest was piqued with the setting in the Texas oil boom. I have some interest in the Texas oil boom towns of the 1920s as it had a profound effect on writer Robert E. Howard’s view of the world.

Meyer’s novel was on my list to be read at some point. It is available at the library but fate intervened when I spotted a hardback copy at last summer’s library booksale.

The novel is divided with interweaving narratives of three characters in the McCullough family. Eli McCullough’s narrative is from a 1936 WPA recording shortly before he died. His son Peter McCullough’s story is told from his diaries. Jeanne Anne McCullough, the fourth generation (born 1926) is told in third person.

Eli McCullough’s family is killed by a raiding Comanche war-band in 1850 with the exception of his father who is away. He is taken by the Comanches, eventually becoming one of them. Meyer devotes quite a bit of space on the Comanche way of life. Eli McCullough becomes a Comanche and likes living like one. He eventually goes back to Anglo-Texan society to collect a bounty to feed the small pox afflicted Comanche clan so they can survive. He has difficulty adjusting back into Anglo society. He joins the Texas Rangers fighting mostly Mexicans and Indians. He does serve in the Confederate Army in the Civil War commanding a contingent of Cherokees from Oklahoma. After the war, he settles in the dangerous Nueces strip with his wife and family with a large ranch.

His son, Peter McCullough’s narrative is 1915-1919. There is racial strife with Mexican insurgents waging guerrilla warfare with the Anglo-Texans. Peter is good friends with the neighboring Garcia family. Unfortunately, Don Garcia’s son in laws are stealing McCullough cattle and selling them across the Rio Grande. A posse wipes out almost all the Garcia family that Peter attempts to stop. His is overshadowed by his dominating father, known as “the Colonel” to everyone in Texas. Peter is nostalgic for cattle raising while his father knows oil is the future. Peter eventually goes to Mexico with the surviving Garcia girl and disappears.

Jeanne Anne McCullough is the grand-daughter of Peter McCullough. The Colonel, Eli McCullough, doted on her. Both brothers are killed in WW2 while she develops a skill in the world of oil. Her narrative is not a interesting as the other two. The last part of her part has an illegal Mexican who is a descendant of Peter McCullough and Maria Garcia revealing himself to Jeanne Anne McCullough. She throws him out.

Meyer wrote an epic novel. Sort of like a James Michener novel which were hugely popular back in the 1970s. I have not seen the AMC TV series with Pierce Brosnan as Eli McCullough. There is a picture of him holding a Browning Automatic Rifle. Those were not around until 1918, the Mexican insurrection of 1915 was over. The McCulloughs have a Lewis machine gun in the book though it does not get used.

There is a fair amount of action with the Eli McCullough sections. A novel just about Eli McCullough would have made a fine western but Meyer appears to have had bigger aspirations.

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