The Corner

Western Lit

My article on Western author Elmer Kelton appears in today’s WSJ. I learned about Kelton three months ago, shortly after he died, when a couple of Corner readers praised him in e-mails as a conservative novelist. I blogged about it here. Then I went on to look up Kelton’s marvelous book The Time It Never Rained. It’s the focus of today’s article:

The tale centers on Charlie Flagg, a stubborn rancher who battles the unyielding drought. He also resists the government’s relief programs with a determination that his friends find both admirable and strange. What emerges is the portrait of a rugged libertarian: “I just want to live by my own lights and be left the hell alone,” says Flagg.

The federal aid turns out to have bad consequences. It fuels inflation, turns neighbor against neighbor, and chips away at bedrock freedoms. Each time a rancher surrenders a piece of his independence, says Flagg, “he’s given up a little of his self-respect, a little of the pride he used to have in takin’ care of himself by himself.”

The Time It Never Rained may be the best book you’ve never read. A couple folks also mentioned Kelton here, in the discussion thread of conservative novelists on my personal website.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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