Cowboys and Cattle Drives
For western history fans, I stumbled on two excellent books that capture the spirit and hard work of cowboys who pushed herds of Longhorns north to market.
One is FREE and you can read it online now, A TEXAS COWBOY or, Fifteen Years on the Hurricane Deck of a Spanish Pony by Charles A. Siringo. Here’s the link: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3830
This vivid, action-packed memoir begins in Dodge City, where a young Siringo grew up as the son of immigrants, an Italian father and an Irish mother. Early Texas was a dangerous and adventurous place, and Siringo lives on his own trying his hand at various jobs, always managing to send money back to his mother. His stories of the trail are amazing accounts of stampedes, weather, and hard luck. He eventually settled down to become a store merchant when he published this autobiography at the age of thirty in 1885.
The other cowboy book that has emerged somewhat as the most realistic, is WE POINTED THEM NORTH: RECOLLECTIONS OF A COWPUNCHER by E.C. “Teddy Blue” Abbott, written with Helena Huntington Smith. Published in 1939, Abbott was 78 years old and with Smith’s help, he wanted to “set the record straight” about the cattle trailing days. Arriving with his family from Norfolk, England to Nebraska, Abbott’s father was the second son of a wealthy British family, hoping to find better opportunities in America. The first thing he did was to travel to Texas and buy cattle, leaving a ten-year-old Abbott to join the outfit that brought their newly purchased herd north. Abbott’s father returned to the Nebraska frontier by train. Abbott was a friend of the western artist Charles Russell, and his life is believed to have been the inspiration for LONESOME DOVE. This is a raw, honest, bare-bones look at early Texas.
The thing that both of these accounts have in common is the practice of allowing young men to fend for themselves in the Texas Frontier. Everyone had to work for money and food, and learn to survive. A good horse, a saddle and the clothes on their back was all they needed. Can you imagine leaving town at trails end to find more work with no money or food in your pocket? There is no whining or complaining in either of these memoirs. They faced the situation head on and did they best they could. These people were amazingly tough and resourceful.
I am deep into research about Texas history and the great Texas Longhorn migration. My next nonfiction book KEEP ‘EM FULL AND KEEP ‘EM ROLLIN’, will be out in 2020. It will feature the history of the chuck wagon and authentic recipes from the cattle drive era.