Published in 1959, 'The Cowboy Reader' contains a unique collection of stories and insights into Western life in the late 1800's. Today, about 150 years later, our main access to "The Cowboy" comes from Western films and Country music. Reading the words of old cow punchers was a refreshing breathe of hot, gritty, prairie air - and now I can't stop talking with a slight Neuces, Texas accent.
I picked this book up a few weeks ago, along with some others, as mentioned in a previous post. "The Cowboy Reader" was a delight. I enjoyed every insight it had to offer, from the in depth descriptions of cowboy clothing, to the nuances of lassoing and branding a calf.
Here are some sections that stood out to me:
Excerpt from a story about Lonny Briscoe- a cowboy from San Saba who painted a huge canvas with a prairie scene. A Senator seeking a favorable election offers to buy Lonny Briscoe's painting for a new government building. Lonny agrees, so he and the cowboys from his town deliver the huge painting to the capital, mighty proud that a boy of their own is an artist.
When the Senator presents the painting to the crowd of officials, he gives on a long, dramatic speech all about the exploits of Lonny Briscoe's grandfather, a famous frontiersman who, at the end of serving his country well, walked away without collecting reward from the Government. Yet the politician does not much speak about the painting. After the speech L
onny seeks an opinion from another artist on the quality of his painting. The artist makes it clear Lonny's strong suit is not with the brush. Lonny realizes his painting had been used for favor off his grandfathers honorable name, not quality of his workmanship. So in keeping with that family honor, Lonny rides his horse through the center of the canvas. This is the following quote from Lonny, to the politician:
Cowboy songs are scattered throughout the book:
In the middle of a 500 mile endurance "hoss race" the support wagon breaks down:
There were so many good lines in 'The Cowboy Reader' I damned near ran out of ink underlining them all:
Learn to take medicine.
Function came first out on the range. It had to.
Let me know if you'd like to borrow this book.
Git along now lil doggies.
- Matt "Tucson Tumbleweed" Marchand