Author: Dotti Enderle
Publisher: Calkins Creek
Concepts: property rights, natural resources, scarcity, incentives
Review: Jesse’s family already had enough problems caused by the terrible 1883 drought: their cotton crop had withered away in the scorching heat, the water level in the tank was so low they risked losing their cattle, and their barbed wire fence had been cut several times by free-range Texan cowmen desperate to find water for their own cattle. They certainly did not need their own family tensions to boil over, but the despair grew when Jesse’s older brother got kicked out of the house for stealing the household savings in order to pay off his gambling debts.
Help came in the form of a secretive farmhand who promised to work for no pay but supper and a bed in an old shack. Why would Jesse’s father possibly want to hire this suspicious man, whom Jesse had even witnessed meeting up with the local seedy men? As the fence cutters became more aggressive, Jesse felt compelled to fight his fears and prove to his father that the new farmhand had a role to play in the misdeeds and threats.
Thoroughly entwined in this story are some interesting lessons about enforcement of property rights and why problems associated with severe drought increased the urgency of such enforcement. Careful character development and an exciting plot add to the appeal, making Crosswire an entirely satisfying work of historical fiction.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children