Horseman, Pass By

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Horseman, Pass By
First edition
AuthorLarry McMurtry
CountryUnited States
GenreModern western
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback and paperback)

Horseman, Pass By is a western novel by American writer Larry McMurtry. His first novel, [1] it was published when he was 25.[2] This 1961 western portrays life on a cattle ranch from the perspective of young narrator Lonnie Bannon. Set in post-World War II Texas (1954), the Bannon ranch is owned by Lonnie's grandfather, Homer Bannon. Homer's ruthless stepson, Hud, stands as the primary antagonist of the novel. The novel inspired the film Hud, starring Paul Newman as the title character.

The title of the novel derives from the last three lines of the poem "Under Ben Bulben" by William Butler Yeats, which are carved on his tombstone:

Cast a cold eye

On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by.


Seventeen-year-old Lonnie lives on a Texas ranch with his grandfather Homer Bannon, Homer's wife Jewel, and her adult son Hud. While a good cowboy, Hud does whatever he wants, regardless of others. They also have a new worker, Jesse, and a cook Halmea, a nice African-American woman who is treated nicely by Homer. Hud is nasty towards her, and Lonnie tries to be nice to her.

The prologue briefly explains life on the ranch and the backstories of everyone there.

One day one of Homer's young heifers dies suddenly. The dead animal is found to have foot and mouth disease, and it is spread to the rest of the herd. All cattle on the ranch are led into a hole dug by bulldozers, shot, and buried deeply.

During this time, Hud rapes the cook, Halmea, causing her to leave. Lonnie and Halmea shoot at him but miss. Halmea tries to kill him but Lonnie just wants to scare him, to no avail. Lonnie goes to the town rodeo, only to see his friend Hermy get seriously hurt in a bull riding accident when a bull stomps on and shatters his chest. Lonnie heads back to the ranch, as Hud also returns from another direction.

Homer is found sick on the side of the highway, and has bones sticking out of his chest due to falling off a porch and is found by Hud and Lonnie. Hud sends Lonnie for help, and any help he can find runs away in fear.[clarification needed] Hud shoots Homer while he is gone. Lonnie is very upset by this but Hud says it's the best thing he could do due to the physical pain he was in and would most likely never fully recover. The book ends with Homer's funeral. When they ask Lonnie to go with them to bury him he gets upset and runs to the back of the church with the song book, "think of the horseman that had passed."[clarification needed]

An epilogue is quickly narrated by Lonnie. He explains how he left Homer's funeral to see his injured friend, Hermy. He hitches a ride with a truck driver who knew Homer. When he asks how he is doing all Lonnie says is, "Mean as ever". The driver tells numerous stories about bulls, his wife, and his kids. Lonnie says to the reader how he reminds him of everyone he knows.

The book, despite being less popular than most other McMurtry books, is praised. Many compare it to Thomas Wolfe's work and to J. D. Salinger's 1951 classic The Catcher in the Rye.[citation needed]


  1. ^ McMurtry, Larry (2008). Books : a memoir (1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 59. ISBN 9781416583349.
  2. ^ "The Fort Scott Tribune - Google News Archive Search".