Published in New York in 1916, this novel is described by its author, Harold Bell Wright, as a “Story of Manhood.” Its setting is cattle ranchland in Arizona, where one July 5th, a mysterious man calling himself “Honorable Patches,” walks from the town of Prescott and into the lives of Bill Baldwin (“the Dean”) the owner of the Cross Triangle Ranch, his family, and his cowboys.
When we meet Patches — on foot in “that land where the distances are such that men most commonly ride,” he is described as “a man in the prime of young manhood—tall and exceedingly well proportioned.” He carries himself well; his clothing is clearly the work of a good city tailor, and his “person was groomed with that nicety of detail that is permitted only to those who possess both means and leisure, as well as taste.”
The narrator tells us that he has clearly not come to Arizona in search of better health, but “still, there was a something about him that suggested a lack of the manly vigor and strength that should have been his.”
A student of men would have said that Nature made this man to be in physical strength and spiritual prowess, a comrade and leader of men—a man’s man—a man among men. The same student, looking more closely, might have added that in some way—through some cruel trick of fortune—this man had been cheated of his birthright.
The quotations are all from Chapter 1 of When a Man’s a Man. The book is available from Gutenberg.