A corral of cattle rustlers, outlaws, and other desperadoes ride the range in this bronco-busting anthology of nineteen tales set in the Old West. Spanning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the diverse stories prove there's no "average" cowboy, but a wide range of rugged individuals. Yet these vividly portrayed characters all seem to possess a sense of freedom, a strong relationship with the land, and a desire to live by their own standards. The result is an action-packed collection that's a feast for anyone smitten by frontier fiction.
The roundup is an adventurous mix — from genre favorites Zane Grey and Frederic Remington to unexpected contributions from Mark Twain and Theodore Roosevelt. There's a romanticized spin from a female author, a unique viewpoint from a former slave, plus a 1902 story by Owen Wister taken from The Virginian, which molded the future of cowboy novels. In "The Caballero's Way" by O. Henry, the Cisco Kid discovers his lady love has strayed into the arms of a scheming ranger — and concocts a devious plan for revenge. In "The Trouble Man" by Eugene Manlove Rhodes, a battle over territory between sheepherders and cattle owners leads to a deadly confrontation. With a short biography of each author, this anthology celebrates the courage and spirit that won the West!
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Read an Excerpt
ALL-TIME FAVORITE COWBOY STORIES
By Rochelle Kronzek
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Owen Wister (1860–1938)
OWEN WISTER was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia). His father was a wealthy physician and his mother, the daughter of famous actress Fanny Kemble. Owen Jr. attended schools in Great Britain and Switzerland and later studied in New Hampshire and at Harvard University, where he was a classmate of Theodore Roosevelt. After graduating from Harvard, Wister studied music in Paris, but returned to America in 1883. Although he graduated from Harvard Law School in 1888 and practiced in Philadelphia for a time, he had little interest in pursuing a career as a lawyer. Due to ill health, Wister had spent several summers in the West and had become fascinated with the region. On an 1893 visit to Yellowstone Park, Wister met the Western painter Frederic Remington and they became lifelong friends. When Wister began writing, he naturally gravitated toward writing about the Old West. His most famous work to this day is his 1902 novel The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains, which he dedicated to his good friend and former classmate, Theodore Roosevelt.
The Virginian, published in 1902, is considered the first Western. It is widely credited with molding the future of cowboy novels to come. In this book, Wister fashioned a style, theme, and characterization that still influence Western writers more than a century later.
"Enter the Man," the first chapter of The Virginian, follows.
Enter the Man
FROM The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains, 1902
Some notable sight was drawing the passengers, both men and women, to the window; and therefore I rose and crossed the car to see what it was. I saw near the track an enclosure, and round it some laughing men, and inside it some whirling dust, and amid the dust some horses, plunging, huddling, and dodging. They were cow ponies in a corral, and one of them would not be caught, no matter who threw the rope. We had plenty of time to watch this sport, for our train had stopped that the engine might take water at the tank before it pulled us up beside the station platform of Medicine Bow. We were also six hours late, and starving for entertainment. The pony in the corral was wise, and rapid of limb. Have you seen a skilful boxer watch his antagonist with a quiet, incessant eye? Such an eye as this did the pony keep upon whatever man took the rope. The man might pretend to look at the weather, which was fine; or he might affect earnest conversation with a bystander: it was bootless. The pony saw through it. No feint hoodwinked him. This animal was thoroughly a man of the world. His undistracted eye stayed fixed upon the dissembling foe, and the gravity of his horse-expression made the matter one of high comedy. Then the rope would sail out at him, but he was already elsewhere; and if horses laugh, gayety must have abounded in that corral. Sometimes the pony took a turn alone; next he had slid in a flash among his brothers, and the whole of them like a school of playful fish whipped round the corral, kicking up the fine dust, and (I take it) roaring with laughter. Through the window-glass of our Pullman the thud of their mischievous hoofs reached us, and the strong, humorous curses of the cow-boys. Then for the first time I noticed a man who sat on the high gate of the corral, looking on. For he now climbed down with the undulations of a tiger, smooth and easy, as if his muscles flowed beneath his skin. The others had all visibly whirled the rope, some of them even shoulder high. I did not see his arm lift or move. He appeared to hold the rope down low, by his leg. But like a sudden snake I saw the noose go out its length and fall true; and the thing was done. As the captured pony walked in with a sweet, church-door expression, our train moved slowly on to the station, and a passenger remarked "That man knows his business."
But the passenger's dissertation upon roping I was obliged to lose, for Medicine Bow was my station. I bade my fellow-travellers good-by, and descended, a stranger, into the great cattle land. And here in less than ten minutes I learned news which made me feel a stranger indeed.
My baggage was lost; it had not come on my train; it was adrift somewhere back in the two thousand miles that lay behind me. And by way of comfort, the baggage-man remarked that passengers often got astray from their trunks, but the trunks mostly found them after a while. Having offered me this encouragement, he turned whistling to his affairs and left me planted in the baggage-room at Medicine Bow. I stood deserted among crates and boxes, blankly holding my check, hungry and forlorn. I stared out through the door at the sky and the plains; but I did not see the antelope shining among the sagebrush, nor the great sunset light of Wyoming. Annoyance blinded my eyes to all things save my grievance: I saw only a lost trunk. And I was muttering half-aloud, "What a forsaken hole this is!" when suddenly from outside on the platform came a slow voice:—
"Off to get married again? Oh, don't!"
The voice was Southern and gentle and drawling; and a second voice came in immediate answer, cracked and querulous:—
"It ain't again. Who says it's again? Who told you, anyway?"
And the first voice responded caressingly:—
"Why, your Sunday clothes told me, Uncle Hughey. They are speakin' mighty loud o' nuptials."
"You don't worry me!" snapped Uncle Hughey, with shrill heat.
And the other gently continued, "Ain't them gloves the same yu' wore to your last weddin'?"
"You don't worry me! You don't worry me!" now screamed Uncle Hughey.
Already I had forgotten my trunk; care had left me; I was aware of the sunset, and had no desire but for more of this conversation. For it resembled none that I had heard in my life so far. I stepped to the door and looked out upon the station platform.
Lounging there at ease against the wall was a slim young giant, more beautiful than pictures. His broad, soft hat was pushed back; a loose-knotted, dull-scarlet handkerchief sagged from his throat; and one casual thumb was hooked in the cartridge-belt that slanted across his hips. He had plainly come many miles from somewhere across the vast horizon, as the dust upon him showed. His boots were white with it. His overalls were gray with it. The weather-beaten bloom of his face shone through it duskily, as the ripe peaches look upon their trees in a dry season. But no dinginess of travel or shabbiness of attire could tarnish the splendor that radiated from his youth and strength. The old man upon whose temper his remarks were doing such deadly work was combed and curried to a finish, a bridegroom swept and garnished; but alas for age! Had I been the bride, I should have taken the giant, dust and all.
He had by no means done with the old man.
"Why, yu've hung weddin' gyarments on every limb!" he now drawled, with admiration. "Who is the lucky lady this trip?"
The old man seemed to vibrate. "Tell you there ain't been no other! Call me a Mormon, would you?"
"Call me a Mormon? Then name some of my wives. Name two. Name one. Dare you!"
"—that Laramie wido' promised you—"
"—only her docter suddenly ordered Southern climate and—"
"Shucks! You're a false alarm."
"—so nothing but her lungs came between you. And next you'd most got united with Cattle Kate, only—"
"Tell you you're a false alarm!"
"—only she got hung."
"Where's the wives in all this? Show the wives! Come now!"
"That corn-fed biscuit-shooter at Rawlins yu' gave the canary—"
"Never married her. Never did marry—"
"But yu' come so near, uncle! She was the one left yu' that letter explaining how she'd got married to a young cyard-player the very day before her ceremony with you was due, and—"
"Oh, you're nothing; you're a kid; you don't amount to—"
"—and how she'd never, never forgot to feed the canary."
"This country's getting full of kids," stated the old man, witheringly. "It's doomed." This crushing assertion plainly satisfied him. And he blinked his eyes with renewed anticipation. His tall tormentor continued with a face of unchanging gravity, and a voice of gentle solicitude:—
"How is the health of that unfortunate—"
"That's right! Pour your insults! Pour 'em on a sick, afflicted woman!" The eyes blinked with combative relish.
"Insults? Oh, no, Uncle Hughey!"
"That's all right! Insults goes!"
"Why, I was mighty relieved when she began to recover her mem'ry. Las' time I heard, they told me she'd got it pretty near all back. Remembered her father, and her mother, and her sisters and brothers, and her friends, and her happy childhood, and all her doin's except only your face. The boys was bettin' she'd get that far too, give her time. But I reckon afteh such a turrable sickness as she had, that would be expectin' most too much."
At this Uncle Hughey jerked out a small parcel. "Shows how much you know!" he cackled. "There! See that! That's my ring she sent me back, being too unstrung for marriage. So she don't remember me, don't she? Ha-ha! Always said you were a false alarm."
The Southerner put more anxiety into his tone. "And so you're a-takin' the ring right on to the next one!" he exclaimed. "Oh, don't go to get married again, Uncle Hughey! What's the use o' being married?"
"What's the use?" echoed the bridegroom, with scorn. "Hm! When you grow up you'll think different."
"Course I expect to think different when my age is different. I'm havin' the thoughts proper to twenty-four, and you're havin' the thoughts proper to sixty."
"Fifty!" shrieked Uncle Hughey, jumping in the air.
The Southerner took a tone of self-reproach. "Now, how could I forget you was fifty," he murmured, "when you have been telling it to the boys so careful for the last ten years!"
Have you ever seen a cockatoo—the white kind with the topknot—enraged by insult? The bird erects every available feather upon its person. So did Uncle Hughey seem to swell, clothes, mustache, and woolly white beard; and without further speech he took himself on board the East-bound train, which now arrived from its siding in time to deliver him.
Yet this was not why he had not gone away before. At any time he could have escaped into the baggage-room or withdrawn to a dignified distance until his train should come up. But the old man had evidently got a sort of joy from this teasing. He had reached that inevitable age when we are tickled to be linked with affairs of gallantry, no matter how.
With him now the East-bound departed slowly into that distance whence I had come. I stared after it as it went its way to the far shores of civilization. It grew small in the unending gulf of space, until all sign of its presence was gone save a faint skein of smoke against the evening sky. And now my lost trunk came back into my thoughts, and Medicine Bow seemed a lonely spot. A sort of ship had left me marooned in a foreign ocean; the Pullman was comfortably steaming home to port, while I—how was I to find Judge Henry's ranch? Where in this unfeatured wilderness was Sunk Creek? No creek or any water at all flowed here that I could perceive. My host had written he should meet me at the station and drive me to his ranch. This was all that I knew. He was not here. The baggage-man had not seen him lately. The ranch was almost certain to be too far to walk to, to-night. My trunk—I discovered myself still staring dolefully after the vanished East-bound; and at the same instant I became aware that the tall man was looking gravely at me,—as gravely as he had looked at Uncle Hughey throughout their remarkable conversation.
To see his eye thus fixing me and his thumb still hooked in his cartridge-belt, certain tales of travellers from these parts forced themselves disquietingly into my recollection. Now that Uncle Hughey was gone, was I to take his place and be, for instance, invited to dance on the platform to the music of shots nicely aimed?
"I reckon I am looking for you, seh," the tall man now observed.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919)
THEODORE ROOSEVELT, historian, naturalist, explorer, author, hunter, soldier, conservationist, governor of New York, and twenty-sixth President of the United States, was born to a prominent New York family of Dutch provenance. His boyhood was spent in New York City and Oyster Bay, Long Island. Roosevelt graduated from Harvard University in 1880, and entered a career in public service shortly thereafter. In 1881, he was elected to the New York State Legislature.
In 1884, after his wife died two days after childbirth and his mother died on the same day, Roosevelt put his career on hold. Leaving his baby daughter in his sister's care, he bought two cattle ranges on the Little Missouri River in North Dakota and spent the next two years there. He learned to ride, rope, and hunt, and even served a short time as a deputy sheriff. He began writing about frontier life for magazines. After the harsh winter of 1886–87 wiped out his cattle, he returned to the home he had built for his wife and child, Sagamore Hill, in Oyster Bay.
"In Cowboy Land" is from his autobiography (1913).
In Cowboy Land
FROM Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography, 1913
Though I had previously made a trip into the then Territory of Dakota, beyond the Red River, it was not until 1883 that I went to the Little Missouri, and there took hold of two cattle ranches, the Chimney Butte and the Elkhorn.
It was still the Wild West in those days, the Far West, the West of Owen Wister's stories and Frederic Remington's drawings, the West of the Indian and the buffalo-hunter, the soldier and the cow-puncher. That land of the West has gone now, "gone, gone with lost Atlantis," gone to the isle of ghosts and of strange dead memories. It was a land of vast silent spaces, of lonely rivers, and of plains where the wild game stared at the passing horseman. It was a land of scattered ranches, of herds of long-horned cattle, and of reckless riders who unmoved looked in the eyes of life or of death. In that land we led a free and hardy life, with horse and with rifle. We worked under the scorching midsummer sun, when the wide plains shimmered and wavered in the heat; and we knew the freezing misery of riding night guard round the cattle in the late fall roundup. In the soft springtime the stars were glorious in our eyes each night before we fell asleep; and in the winter we rode through blinding blizzards, when the driven snow-dust burnt our faces. There were monotonous days, as we guided the trail cattle or the beef herds, hour after hour, at the slowest of walks; and minutes or hours teeming with excitement as we stopped stampedes or swam the herds across rivers treacherous with quicksands or brimmed with running ice. We knew toil and hardship and hunger and thirst; and we saw men die violent deaths as they worked among the horses and cattle, or fought in evil feuds with one another; but we felt the beat of hardy life in our veins, and ours was the glory of work and the joy of living.
It was right and necessary that this life should pass, for the safety of our country lies in its being made the country of the small homemaker. The great unfenced ranches, in the days of "free grass," necessarily represented a temporary stage in our history. The large migratory flocks of sheep, each guarded by the hired shepherds of absentee owners, were the first enemies of the cattlemen; and owing to the way they ate out the grass and destroyed all other vegetation, these roving sheep bands represented little of permanent good to the country. But the homesteaders, the permanent settlers, the men who took up each his own farm on which he lived and brought up his family, these represented from the National standpoint the most desirable of all possible users of, and dwellers on, the soil. Their advent meant the breaking up of the big ranches; and the change was a National gain, although to some of us an individual loss.
I first reached the Little Missouri on a Northern Pacific train about three in the morning of a cool September day in 1883. Aside from the station, the only building was a ramshackle structure called the Pyramid Park Hotel. I dragged my duffle-bag thither, and hammered at the door until the frowsy proprietor appeared, muttering oaths. He ushered me upstairs, where I was given one of the fourteen beds in the room which by itself constituted the entire upper floor. Next day I walked over to the abandoned army post, and, after some hours among the gray log shacks, a ranchman who had driven into the station agreed to take me out to his ranch, the Chimney Butte ranch, where he was living with his brother and their partner.
Excerpted from ALL-TIME FAVORITE COWBOY STORIES by Rochelle Kronzek. Copyright © 2009 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Enter the Man (from The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains, 1902)
In Cowboy Land (from Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography, 1913)
The Caballero's Way (from Heart of the West, 1907)
Cowboy Golf (from The Light of the Western Stars, 1914)
A Gentleman of the Range (from The Light of the Western Stars)
Life in the Cattle Country (from Collier's magazine, 1899)
Justice in the Saddle (from The Outlet, 1905)
Stuart N. Lake
At the O. K. Corral (from Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, 1931)
Eugene Manlove Rhodes
The Trouble Man (from The Saturday Evening Post, 1909)
Bertha Muzzy Bower
The Trail Herd (from Cow Country, 1921)
Edgar Beecher Bronson
End of the Trail (from Reminiscences of a Ranchman, 1908)
Triggerfingeritis (from The Red-Blooded Heroes of the Frontier, 1910)
Roughing It, 1872 (from Chapter 24 [excerpt])
A Horse in Need (from Ronicky Doone, 1921)
Stewart Edward White
On Cowboys (from The Mountains, 1904)
William MacLeod Raine
A Shot from Ambush (from Mavericks, 1912)
The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, 1907 (from Chapter 13 [excerpt])
Frank V. Webster
After Stray Cattle (from Cowboy Dave: or, The Roundup at Rolling River, 1915)