Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Legend of Colton H. Bryant by Alexandra Fuller

Alexandra Fuller's new book The Legend of Colton H. Bryant may seem an unusual story to comfortably secure readers from the cities and suburbs of our country. The young men and women of Evanston, Wyoming lack the educational advantage, career ambitions, and financial foresight of their urban counterparts who attend highly-ranked high schools in preparation for college and careers. While the setting may be different, youths from ghettos may find the story line more understandable. Coming from a rural community dominated by the oil industry, I recognize the basic truth of the story right away.

Like his father and grandfather before him, Colton H. Bryant (1980-2006) dreamed of being a cowboy but settled for rough necking in the Upper Green River Valley of Wyoming. Having been an accident prone boy who was well-known in the emergency room of the local hospital, the reckless young man who lived on Mountain Dew and hamburgers claimed he would not live to see his twenty-fifth birthday. He exceeded his prediction by eight months and died in an easily avoidable oilfield drilling accident. He was the fourth rig hand working for Ultra Petroleum to die in eighteen months. According to Fuller, the aggressively profit-minded company was fined a nominal amount for not having safety rails and did little for Bryant's family.

In this intimate biography of the ill-fated Bryant, Fuller portrays a working class character that would do anything for his friends and family, including the dangerous work that he and many other men with few options do. The author explains in her afterward to the book that she changed one name and rearranged the time sequence slightly for dramatic effect. She also took some liberties with conversations, which of course could not be so well remembered. The result is a compelling quick reading narrative.

Many readers will remember Fuller for her African memoirs Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight and Scribbling the Cat. She does not appear as a character in this story of her new homeland. Her old fans and teen readers will enjoy this novel-like biography, which should be in most public libraries.

Fuller, Alexandra. The Legend of Colton H. Bryant. Penguin Press, 2008. 202p. ISBN 9781594201837.

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