Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me. Im gonna eat a worm. ... Jesse James, circa 1878, or so he supposedly claimed.
Nobody in Freeborn, South Dakota likes the illegitimate son of notorious outlaw Jesse James. The story unfolds in wild Freeborn with the appearance of the James gang. This sharpens the focus between two competing visions of the town, between the outlaws who see Freeborn as a haven for their revelry and earnest Mayor Nater and his ineffective Sheriff Dan. When Sylvia Jane Landsford, a strong and confident prostitute, loses her rythmn in a bandit tryst and births baby Woody James in the same year as the Mayors daughter Audrey May, a new dynamic begins.
This intensifies when Audrey May befriends the boy, causing the Mayor to pack her bags and send her to Carrie Nations sister, the head mistress of the School for Girls from Bandit Towns. For Woody, this proves only one thing. He must leave Freeborn and prove, once and for all, whether he can be a true western hero, or the villain that all thought he was destined to be. All the while, the Mayor concocts a new plan to gain courage for Sheriff Dan in the eyes of the bandits. The novel follows these three subplots along a trail of humor and action throughout the wild American west until the two real questions of the novel are answered. Who is the real hero of Freeborn? And is anyone truly free born?