The Log of a Cowboy (Paperback)
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Andy Adam's true-to-life story of an 1882 cattle drive is his best known, and its retelling 100 years later in Larry McMurtry's -Lonesome Dove- is evidence of its importance among early works of Western fiction. Here the protagonist is a young cowboy much like the author, who trailed beef from Texas to Montana at a time just after the buffalo herds were being extinguished from the short grass prairies and homesteading had not yet fenced in the high plains. Oklahoma was still -Indian Territory, - Little Big Horn was a recent memory, and Native Americans were in the last shameful stages of being forced off the open range. The railroads were snaking across the land making frontier boom towns where law and order either prevailed (Dodge) or more often did not (Ogallala), and the vast cattle herds of Texas and Mexico finally had a market and access to it. Adams was born into this world and as a young man cowboyed during the height of the cattle drive era. His book is an account of one trek, delivering 3,000 head of cattle to the Blackfoot Agency in northern Montana. For the protagonist, the initial excitement wears off once the daily routine is established, and besides the occasional stampede and wet weather, the highlights of the journey are brief visits to the cowtowns they pass along the way and the many river crossings, some of which pose enormous difficulties. A few of the men in the outfit stand out, such as Flood the foreman, McCann the cook, and the protagonist's trail mate The Rebel, who is older and wiser and something of a mentor. Other personalities emerge, primarily around the campfire on nights when the men get to swapping stories. And Adams passes on a lot of first-hand knowledge about trailing cattle, riding horses, and the day-to-day operation of a drive. Days and nights of the routine are punctuated by episodes of another kind: a rigged horse race, in which the cowboys lose several hundred dollars in wagers, two saloon shootings, the breakdown of the chuck wagon, pulling cattle out of a boggy river, meeting potentially hostile Indians, an encounter with cattle thieves, and a long drive across a waterless expanse of Wyoming. In -The Log of a Cowboy, - Adams captures the excitement and the reality of the old West before it was romanticized and mythologized by the movies and popular fiction.
About the Author
Andy Adams, one of the most accurate chroniclers of the authentic "Old West," was born in Columbia City, Indiana. Adams distinguished himself from the majority of other western authors of the day with his meticulous accuracy and fidelity to the truth. As its name implied, The Log of a Cowboy was a day-by-day account of a cattle drive Adams had made from Texas to Montana. The book had little plot beyond the progress of the cattle herd toward Montana, and had none of the romantic excitement offered by less literal chroniclers of the West. Adams' self-avowed goal was to make his fiction indistinguishable from fact, and as one commentator has noted, "in this he succeeds only too well."