Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Review: Honey in the Horn by H. L. Davis

There was a run-down old tollbridge station in the Shoestring Valley of Southern Oregon where Uncle Preston Shiveley had lived for fifty years, outlasting a wife, two sons, several plagues of grasshoppers, wheat-rust and caterpillars, a couple or three invasions of land-hunting settlers and real-estate speculators, and everybody else except the scattering of old pioneers who had cockleburred themselves onto the country at about the same time he did.

Honey in the Horn starts off with this shaggy, homespun sentence that sets the tone for the whole pioneer-themed story. H. L. Davis's classic coming-of-age novel about homesteading in Oregon in the early 1900s has charm enough to still win over readers with its continuous movement and steady introduction of quirky characters.

The story follows orphan Clay Calvert on a series of adventures around Oregon, from his first job on a sheep ranch, through the forests of the rain-sodden Columbia Gorge, to high deserts and wheat fields east of the Cascade Mountains. Davis celebrates the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and the diversity of her citizens and settlers.

Honey in the Horn won the 1936 Pulitzer Prize -- the only Pulitzer for an Oregon novel. Some of its social views don’t fly today, but it captures the pioneering spirit and history of its time. The new reprint edition from OSU Press features an introduction by Richard W. Etulain.


  1. This is a great book... interesting in some parts but hilariously funny in others. I read it about twenty years ago and sometimes wonder if it requires rereading. A person looking for more books relating to Oregon in different ways should find the 150 book list prepared by the Oregon State Library at the 150th anniversary of statehood. This is on the list but there are a number of others out there too, some well known, some less known

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, James!

    I found the OSL's list of 150 Oregon Books: It includes 41 books for young readers as well as fiction, memoirs, biography, history, poetry, and general nonfiction. It's quite a mix!


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