“The Oxbow Wizard,” a highly popular young adult frozen north wilderness adventure novella, was the 1st of 3 experimental forays by Garden City Publishing into the “A Book for Boys” series. These were part of the even larger never-properly-define broader series of soft cover digest-paperbacks (similar to dime novels in format) for which I have already earlier blogged. Numbered “60” on the spine for the overall series, the rear cover adverts up to 62 titles, overall, and sports an internal copyright notice of 1924, and 1920 for the original, via Open Road’s publishers, Torbell.
No records to my knowledge has ever indicated where the novella originally was published, however, I have located serial installments of the novella in Torbell’s The Open Road. This was a magazine designed to encourage young boys and men to get out-doors, rather than remain indoors and idle. The serial begins the in December 1919 issue, with the installment titled “Up the Oxbow.”
Additionally, parts of this serial MIGHT appear in The Trail Makers Boys’ Annual (Volume 1, 1920) but I have never obtained a copy for confirmation, nor have I been able to ascertain the full contents of said volume, which contains “stories and articles for Canadian boys” by Canadian men.
These three boys books lack the reproduced covers from SHORT STORIES magazines that made the series initially so enticing to collect. Unable to trace all of the Open Road mags, I can’t be certain whether this cover image originates with the magazine or hails from an entirely different source. Hopefully one of our blog readers may one day solve that mystery!
The story introduces young men to the coming-of-age young Dan Evans. While cleaning out a boarder’s room, he stumbles across an abandoned green bound volume, later revealed to be the collected adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Having read various tales, he begins to apply the logic into his real-life adventures and solves small home issues. His father, never kindly disposed to his son, thinks he is acting “smart” and dislikes his good intentions. However, when a young lady mysteriously vanishes, he applies his newly aroused detective skills and inadvertently bumps into his “odd” uncle, whom is more than he seems. Realizing the young man is smarter than he looks, the uncle demands he continue on to his cabin, where he will meet him later. However, on arriving at the cabin, young Dan Evans discovers the place is occupied by the missing lady, being harassed by a hooligan. Evans takes out the interloper, and it is learned that she married and eloped with the uncle, secretly because the uncle is very shy.
Some time later, as a reward for his skill and assistance, his uncle, removed far and away from the wild and seated at a desk in the city, offers Dan the opportunity to take over his cabin and partner up with an older man, and trap the wild animals for their fur, etc. Dan gives up his lumbering job for the hardworking winter job of trapping.
Mysteries abound when the cabin is found broken into, supposedly by a bear, per his partner. However, Dan sees signs that a bear would not have caused. Time passes and Dan comes upon a woman whom imposes upon his good will to help her feed her starving babies. Her husband is at home, laid up. Dan discovers the man is actually heavily intoxicated, and notices bear claws under the bunk and, an extremely large bear fur on the ground, the dimensions for which match the assumed size of the mythical bear that broke into their cabin!
Realizing the drunk broke into his cabin (despite the girl claiming it was herself, with the good intention of salvaging food for her children) Dan decides to work in the family’s favor to keep them fed.
But when his traps are worked over, he realizes the drunkard is stealing his furs. Proof surfaces when the man, terribly drunk, is found by the partner. Unable to drag him to safety, he remains outside in the frozen wastes. Dan, upon returning to the cabin, discovers his partner missing, and quickly hunts him down. Finally realizing the man’s whereabouts, he is introduced to the drunkard, and they learn that he sold the fur(s) and bought mostly illegal liquor, rather than stocking up with food for his family.
When more of his traps are found disturbed, Dan is irked. Determined to best the drunkard, he utilizes his skills to bait the shiftless cretin, and tracks down the person peddling the illegal booze. With the aid of a policeman, the whole incident is nearly neatly handled.
Not the best story I’ve ever read by Theodore Goodridge Roberts. His other three entries, previously blogged about, better stood the test of literary time than this young adult farce. Overall, of the four titles via this publisher, “The Lure of Piper’s Glen” is undoubtedly the most entertaining.