Kill the Cowboy: A Battle of Mythology in the New West

Kill the Cowboy: A Battle of Mythology in the New West

by Sharman Apt Russell
     
 
Rising larger than life against the Western horizon, the cowboy sits astride his horse right in the middle of American mythology, husbanding our ideals of freedom, independence, and valor. And grazing his cattle on the wide-open land, he leaves a dusty trail: weeds spring up, scrub brush flourishes, wildlife declines, ground compacts, soil erodes, streambeds turn into

Overview

Rising larger than life against the Western horizon, the cowboy sits astride his horse right in the middle of American mythology, husbanding our ideals of freedom, independence, and valor. And grazing his cattle on the wide-open land, he leaves a dusty trail: weeds spring up, scrub brush flourishes, wildlife declines, ground compacts, soil erodes, streambeds turn into dry gullies. Treading a fine line between the idyllic myth and the harsh facts of real-life ranching, this book offers a measured look at the struggle over the future of the American West, where visions of the land sharply divide between those who want to use it, those who want to save it from abuse, and those who see a middle way. Fairly—though envisioning a revamping of the current grazing system—Sharman Apt Russell describes the present battles that pit ranchers against environmentalists, new Westerners against old, private concerns against government policies. The story she tells is dramatic, animated with the distinctive personalities and contentious episodes that have shaped current debates. It is also scrupulously attentive to the details of history, politics, and economics in the region. Grounded in a deep respect for land, this elegantly written, well-reasoned book begins the work of reevaluating our heroic myths and immediate needs in a way that will prove sustainable for all the West's inhabitants.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
To environmentalists, wilderness is a valuable resource and a sacred place; to many ranchers, wilderness means eviction and government interference. Russell, herself a westerner, here tackles the complex and controversial issues of land health and wildlife in the West. Overgrazing is a major problem that can cause permanent damage. The figures are awesome: 80% of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management regions, 50% of designated Wilderness Areas and 35% of National Wildlife Refuges are grazed. Fewer than 15% of all grazing permits remain with the original holders; ``ranchers'' include the Vail Ski Corp., the Union and Getty oil companies. In 1990, federal agencies spent $52 million more on programs dealing with livestock than they collected in grazing fees. Russell ( Songs of the Fluteplayer ) presents a number of viewpoints and profiles courageous individuals who are making an effort to restore the land. She stresses that although ranching traditions must be preserved, we need not graze 70% of the land. A provocative and enlightening account. (June)
Library Journal
Russell, a resident of New Mexico's Mimbres Valley, presents the opposing viewpoints involved in the battle over grazing on the public lands in the West. She gives a personal touch to the discussion through interviews with people on both sides of the issue, and although an environmentalist herself, she allows both sides to have their say. Although she promises to sketch out a common ground between opposing views, Russell instead gets sidetracked by the ``spiritual'' aspects of the environmental movement. She is careful with her statistical sources, relying on those that are impartial. Her book is well written, and while it says nothing new to specialists, it is useful in providing some perspective on the public lands debate for the general reader. Suitable, but not essential, for most libraries.-- Stephen H. Peters, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette
Booknews
This volume features the stories of various peoples who live in the rural west, with many of the accounts focusing on the conflict and resolution between ranchers and farmers and the environmentalists who question the results of their practices. Russell (an author in New Mexico) writes in a spiritual and poetic tone, which may appeal to environmentalists more than ranchers. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780201626933
Publisher:
Perseus Publishing
Publication date:
04/28/1994
Pages:
217
Product dimensions:
5.47(w) x 8.23(h) x 0.67(d)
Lexile:
970L (what's this?)

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