Kill the Cowboy: A Battle of Mythology in the New Westby 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 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.
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