The decades of the 1870s and 1880s were the heyday of the Old West as the world has come to know it in stories and songs, plays, motion pictures, and television dramas. Edgar Beecher Bronson, the real-life prototype of that now familiar character, the tenderfoot from the East, went out where the West began when it began. When he took his first herd of cattle north of the North Platte River, he went into an area "of roughly three hundred thousand square miles [which] held no white man's habitation save the little camp of miners in the Black Hills, and had for its only tenant nomad bands of Cheyenne and of Oglala, Brulé, and Uncapapa Sioux. . . . Bar one ranch immediately on the Platte River to the east of Fort Laramie, I was the first man to carry a herd of cattle into the Sioux country, and there locate and permanently maintain a ranch."
The story of Bronson's apprenticeship on the range and his evolution from a greenhorn puncher into an experienced old hand has come to be regarded as a classic of cow-country literature. If almost an excessive amount of excitement seemed to come his way, it "was not because I was hunting trouble, but was simply due to the fact that trouble seemed to take a lot of pleasure in hunting the few plains dwellers of that day in that region--it just came to all of us, in one form of another, in the course of the day's work in the late 1870s and early 1880s."