Tiger Hunting

April 9th, 2013 at 11:00 am

Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:

 

 

TIGER HUNTING

It’s not often that one reads about tiger hunting in Kansas, but there’s a new book out on the subject. The book is fiction, of course; tigers don’t roam the creek beds and pastures of Kansas – as far as we know anyway.

“Tiger Hunting” was a fun novel for me to read on several counts. First, it’s an enjoyable story that I couldn’t put down, a romp set in western Kansas. The second reason is because I loved the subtle sense of humor that comes through in the thoughts and words of the main character, Jeni.

And thirdly, the book was penned by my writing buddy, Tracy Million Simmons, and so I finally got to read one of the several novels that she’s been working on. Many of you know Tracy Simmons as the manager of the Emporia Farmers Market; she’s also a writer.

It’s not autobiographical, but the book is set in Tracy’s hometown of Dodge City. As a native, Tracy understands and knows the community and the region, and that connection to place comes through beautifully in her writing. I could feel the wind on my face in the restaurant parking lot and the bouncing of the truck as they rode through the pastures. And, I could picture the endless horizon when Jeni was riding her bike on the lonely country roads.

In the book, a 24-year-old college graduate, Jeni, who is not living up to her potential, leaves a goodbye note for her boyfriend and drives from Houston to her parents’ home with all of her belongings packed in her car, and all of her mistakes messing up her mind.

A few miles from home, Jeni drives upon an accident involving vehicles of a circus caravan. She sees a dead dolphin by the side of the road.

And it’s on the novel’s first page that I was grabbed as a reader. As Jeni drives past the accident scene, her eyes meet those of a man from the circus who was walking toward the animal. “His sorrow seemed to leap the space between us. I felt my throat close and I blinked away tears. I watched him in my rearview mirror as he knelt beside the dolphin. He patted her. His head dipped down and I imagined him curling up beside her on the ground with his sorrow.”

Tracy presents scenes that a reader could walk into and feel at home. For me it was easy to feel as if I were in Jeni’s mind as she interpreted her parents’ words and facial expressions. It seemed as if I were experiencing the complicated interactions that are a part of any family. I discovered that Tracy is really good at this, at communicating the expectations that a person feels from herself and from her family.

In that accident involving the circus that Jeni drove upon in Chapter 1, sea otters had to be chased down. A white tiger was also missing from its cage. And it’s that elusive and half-tame tiger that the circus people, a veterinarian, Jeni and her brother, and Jeni’s old junior high crush, Joe, go hunting for with tranquilizer guns. Oh yes, Orville, the circus’ orangutan, joined in on the search as well.

There’s a bit of craziness with the animals and the circus folks, mixed in with Jeni’s struggle to find direction in her life. The story is pulled along with an engaging energy and with touches of sly humor in Tracy’s writing, like these lines:

“The ape puckered his lips and gave Joe a kiss right on the smacker. Joe flinched, jumping backward and wiping his mouth with the tail of his t-shirt, revealing the fine definition of his abs to anyone who was looking. I couldn’t be sure who that might be, because I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off Joe.”

While the protagonist faces her past and begins to address her future, the novel also tells a story of fun and adventure on the High Plains of Kansas. And – if you’re ever out Dodge City way, keep your eyes open – you might just catch a glimpse of a white tiger on the loose.

“Tiger Hunting” is available in paperback at Town Crier in Emporia, and is available in e-book format at various online sources. For more information, visit Tracy’s website: www.tracymillionsimmons.com.

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columns, Kansans, life on the ground, other people's stuff, writing

  1. Flips
    April 9th, 2013 at 12:27 | #1

    Thanks for sharing– & I thought all Dodge City had was feed lots of cattle & meat processing plants– & WIND— & the rodeo once a year– & OMG– now a white tiger!! 🙂 Gary was offered a job many years ago in Dodge City– I told him if it took that job– I might seriously think about divorcing him!!! 🙂 Then we had family that lived in Garden City for a few years– & I just knew each time I drove out there– I would surely just drive off the face of the earth & not know it!!! :)Thanks for sharing Cheryl– sounds like a fun book!!!!

  2. April 11th, 2013 at 12:06 | #2

    Are there any wolves in Kansas?