“Walker Brothers Cowboy” is told in the first person from the point of view of an adult woman recounting a significant formative experience from her preadolescent girlhood in which she meets a woman her father dated before marrying her mother. Through the encounter, she comes to view her father in a new light by realizing that he is not only a family provider but also a man with a colorful emotional history all his own.
The opening scene of “Walker Brothers Cowboy” establishes the geographic and psychological landscape of the story—rural Canada in the decade following World War II, where the narrator’s family and most of their neighbors have fallen on hard times and struggle to maintain their dignity in the face of declining fortunes. As the story begins, the narrator describes her mother making homemade school clothes for her because her family can no longer afford store-bought ones. Her father, Ben Jordan, was earning a respectable living raising foxes for their fur but the fur market bottomed out, and he has had to take a job as a door-to-door salesperson. The narrator’s father invites his daughter to join him for a walk along the shores of Lake Huron. This rare bonding experience unites the pair, who seldom share any time together because of the demands of Ben’s work.
The narrator’s mother—a disillusioned and emotionally reserved woman—minds to the everyday needs of her daughter and son while Ben spends long days on the road. Ben views his time with his children as precious and seizes the chance to spend an evening alone with his daughter. Although the narrator describes her relationship with her father in the ambivalent terms of a girl poised at the edge of adolescence, viewing their relationship as both nurturing and tedious, it is clear that the...
(The entire section is 738 words.)
"Walker Brothers Cowboy" takes place in Canada in the 1930s, a decade when that country— like so many others around the world—was feeling the drastic effects of the Great Depression. It is clear that the narrator's family's monetary circumstances have been adversely affected by the world events. The narrator makes reference to a time when her father owned his own business, a silver fox farm. Though they were poor then, "that was a different sort of poverty." Now the girl's father is a "pedlar," indicating that the family has come down in the world.
The mother's actions in the story most clearly show the poverty of the family, but details do as well: the mother has to alter her old clothes to fit her daughter; the family now lives in a poor neighborhood; and, when visiting Lake Huron, they are now on the side where...
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