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Take a Literary Trip Down Memory Lane: When the Legends Die

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The defining themes of adolescent fiction are easy to grasp but hard to experience: Life lessons are learned, painful truths acknowledged. The best of these tales not only star teenagers, they are often read during adolescence, such as Catcher in the Rye (the ultimate teen novel) or Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows. It skews younger, but even varsity linebackers grow misty-eyed recalling the novel, about a boy who raises coonhounds.

When the Legends Die , by Hal Borland is another such book. Search your memory from English II… You may have written a five-paragraph essay about the symbolism of the various animals, bulls, bears and broncos in the novel. As a Ute Indian, Thomas Black Bull grows up in the wilderness with his parents. When they die he survives alone for a time, but ends up in town, working at a rodeo. Red Dillion, a terse and crusty old boozehound befriends Thomas, and turns him into a rodeo star. Their relationship, and its significant disappointment and betrayals, helps Thomas find his way in adulthood.

Even though it plays up the rodeo action for the screen, the film
adaptation hews closely to the book. Identity, independence, alienation
— all the big themes from high school English class, and high school
life, will come rushing back. And since there’s no way J.D.
Salinger is optioning Catcher in the Rye anytime soon, When the Legends Die is your best bet for a literary trip down memory lane. Just don’t stick your gum under the coffee table.

When the Legends Dies airs Saturday, March 22 at 6AM | 5C. For a complete schedule, click here.

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