Prairie Bill and the Covered Wagon (1934)⭐⭐ by G.A. Alkire
This seems to be the only book that G. A. Alkire. It’s possible that this is a pseudonym, since that was common, but when I search the name, the only thing that comes up is this book.
Prairie Bill and the Covered Wagon was illustrated by Hal Arbo, who illustrated many books throughout the 30s, including a version of Black Beauty. Our book was published by Whitman Publishing.
In the front inside cover is written in pen
In the front flyleaf is written in pen
On the surface, it’s an OK story, pretty straightforward, and the author tries to pack lots of action into one little book. If you’re familiar with Big Little Books, you’ll know they’re short, fat books filled with pictures practically on every other page. This book doesn’t seem like it’s been read very much, as it’s in pretty good condition for being almost 90 years old.
This Big Little Book is the story of Dan, his wife Nancy, brother in law Ben, Louie, and Bill, who travel across the country to 1840s Oregon. One of the first things I noticed is that every non-white person in the book is the bad guy, and it is glaring in today’s clearer view of the way life should be and the way people should be treated.
First, they’re on a boat with a bunch of other people, and almost immediately one of the main characters is bashing three Native Americans’ heads in because they were trying to steal his food. Next, there’s nothing to do but play cards and gamble. A Mexican, whose name is Ricardo, is caught cheating, and one of the party shoots him, shattering his wrist. Ricardo is left off at the next stop, so they think they are rid of him, but he follows the four main characters almost all the way across the country after they get off the boat. He is friends with the Pawnee Indians, so arranges for them terrorize the group nearly the entire way. At one point, Nancy is kidnapped by the Pawnee, but is rescued by another group that was part of the aforementioned card game.
The last big event is when they are safe at a fort, and they spot a random person getting sucked down by quicksand. They hurry to save him with considerable trouble, but when they realize it’s Ricardo they let him die and this is how Ricardo is cast out of their hair for good.
In the end, Bill, Nancy, and Dan are safe in Oregon after their two month trek, but Louie and Dan decide they should go ahead and keep traveling because “My pardner an’ me must hev a leetle cactus juice an’ tumbleweed in our blood, seems like!” I’m giving it two stars because it is a coherent story, but it’s not good, and definitely not good reading for little boys. If I had a son, I’d be mad if my little boy was reading this stuff, putting violent, vengeful, and racist ideas into his head. I much prefer the stories where people show their good and human side once in a while. Down with Prairie Bill, and Up with Hector’s Inheritance!