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Saturday, July 20, 2024
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            THE YOUNG COYOTE, by Carl Douglass, tells the beginning of the story—the saga—of a boy who will succeed, whatever the cost to himself or to anyone who gets in his way. Ten-year-old Garven Aloysius Carmichael sits on a broken old fence yearning to be accepted into the social milieu of the town into which he and his mother have been forced to move after they are abandoned by Garven’s father. He has several strikes against him: he is young, small, the son of the new teacher, has an atrociously pompous name; and worse, he is a new boy in town. The town is a dust bowl in the Arizona desert and newness is not a concept well received there. Already at ten, he is a fighter. He has had to defend himself against the taunts from boys who mock his name which his alcoholic father garnered from an Englishman in a bar. He studies the ongoing football game being played with near total disregard for rules and with necessary mayhem. He summons his courage and wedges his way onto one of the ad hoc teams. That day, in a series of fights, he earns his place.

            Garven’s goal is to escape the cloistering confines of the town—Cipher, Arizona—and to avoid being trapped there as a cipher himself for the rest of his life. That, too, is a fight. He becomes the leader of a pack of boys for whom escalating pranks are the greatest achievement possible for them, and Garven is a born leader. He moves from trouble to trouble, mostly due to scrapes brought on by himself. As he grows, the major quality of his character is brought out—he has an overarching ambition. He will win at all costs. His mother, Rachel, despairs for his chances ever to be able to use his good brain and that he will end his days as a thug like his ignorant school friends—a disenfranchised Apache, and a dedicated neer-do-well. Her desperation leads her to the town doctor who recognizes Garven’s potential and takes him under his wing. Dr. Wilsonhulme offers the boy and his mother a chilling alternative to his present life’s course. He will sponsor Garven’s acceptance into an exclusive boys’ prep school in California, but Garven will have to leave his place as a cipher in Cipher, and from his mother’s care and keeping forever.

            Garven accepts with enthusiasm, and Rachel with reluctance; but Garven starts his prep school as a ninth grader in a school—Burton-Cagle Prep--he has never heard of in a state where he has never been, and among students and teachers who regard him as something of an untermenschen. As he has done all his young life, Garven fights; he adapts; and he prevails, albeit at a great cost. In order to remain in the school in a milieu that is beyond his initial capacities, he and his mother must agree to have the doctor adopt him legally. Garven gladly sheds his ridiculous middle name and changes his surname to Wilsonhulme. Through a series of landmark pranks, epic fights, and integrity scarring decisions, Garven rises to the top of the school and gains acceptance to Stanford University.

            Then, Garven’s real life’s fight begins in earnest. The competition is tougher and less forgiving. But here the college freshman’s real assets come to the fore. He has a native intelligence, a learned cunning, and an indomitable will which serves him well. He faces his fears and braves the California bear in his den. He gains acceptance as Stanford’s legendary prankster, pays some steep prices for his complicity, and faces serious disciplinary action—a punitive action which threatens his now fully developed goal of becoming a rich doctor. He connives, evades, casts blame on others, lies, and at times, cheats. Nothing is going to stand in his way. Garven makes fast friends at Stanford, men whom he will use later as his career needs dictate.

            His fledgling Stanford career is checkered, but in the end successful. He is more amazed than his detractors when he is allowed to continue to his sophomore year a bit bruised but unchastened, unrepentant, and certainly not vanquished.

-Neal Dastrup

Author: My Implausible Memoirs and The Icy Strait;

Proprietor: Alaskan Bear Lodge, Excursion Inlet, Alaska.