Crosswire, by Dotti Enderle (book review) – Texas drought & water wars in 1880s

It’s seriously hot and dry in Texas right now, but not quite as bad as the drought that Jesse and his family are suffering through in 1880s West Texas.

It’s a tough time for all cattlemen, but worse for those without access to windmills pumping well water into storage tanks, as the creeks and ponds dry up. So dishonest cattle drovers are cutting barbed wire fences to get at the stored water, leaving little for their family’s cattle.

Mysterious strangers, mutterings at the saloon, his brother’s sudden love of gambling, and having to repair the fences every single blistering-hot day – how can Jesse keep doing all this when he just can’t bring himself to even carry a gun any more? Jesse’s not enjoying how life is treating him in this quick read with a surprise ending.

For a longer story about the too-similar 1950s drought in West Texas, try Elmer Kelton’s well-crafted The Time It Never Rained.

Book info: Crosswire / Dotti Enderle. Calkins Creek Books, 2010. [author’s website] [publisher site] Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: Drought is the cattleman’s enemy, so renegade drovers are cutting the fences to get to ranchers’ ponds and watering holes. Jesse works with his pa and older brother to repair the barbed-wire fences day after day in the scorching heat, worrying that his family’s food crops will dry up, too.

Big brother Ethan is another worry, spending his nights gambling at the saloon in town – where did the 16-year-old get money to gamble with, anyway? Their stern pa won’t put up with such nonsense, throwing Ethan out of the house and breaking Ma’s heart.

And 13-year-old Jesse just can’t fire a gun any more – not after his accident, not at an attacking rattlesnake, not for anything. What good is a kid who won’t shoot, out on the 1880s Texas frontier? The fence-cutters are getting bolder, making terrible threats against Jesse’s family and dog and their cattle.

Who’s this Jackson guy that Pa hires to help out?
Where is he headed every night after dark?
What does Jackson know about the fence-cutters?

Barbed-wire sharp and prairie wind fast, Crosswire is an exciting western tale based on true events of Texas history.(One of 5,000 books recommended on

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