Book Reviews and Notices
Rollie Burns: Or an Account of the Ranching Industry on the
South Plains. By W. C. Holden. (The Southwest Press,
Dallas, 1932. Pages vii, 243.)
This book is made of the reminiscences of Mr. R. C. Burns,
of Lubbock, Texas, ranging from 1861 to 1932. Professor Holden
has preserved the first person narrative of Mr. Burns, with much
of his style and language. The book is intrinsically interesting,
as are all diaries and first-hand accounts of personal experiences;
and is, besides, a real contribution of very considerable value to
the rapidly growing literature of plains life and industry.
Mr. Burns entered the frontier country as a child, when his
parents moved from Missouri to Texas. He became a cowboy,
a ranch manager, and finally a ranch owner. He graduated from
the cattle industry, which he knew, and in which he prospered,
into the sophisticated business of town-site promotion and inter-
urban bus transportation, and lost his little fortune but not his
sense of humor.
Many phases of the history of the ranch cattle industry receive
atmospheric accretions from the book. Even the well known
theme of the frontier ball is enlivened by an original anecdote
of a stiffly starched shirt and by Bill Petty's ballad of dance calls.
And the disciples of "new history" will be pleased by the most
vivid catalogue of the housekeeping economy of a cow camp dugout
that I remember to have seen:
"We had two Dutch ovens-one for meat and one for bread-
a frying pan, a coffee pot, a butcher knife, three or four sacks of
flour and a few pounds of salt and coffee. Our beds consisted of
a number of wolf hides with a few blankets for cover. The beds
were made down on the dirt floor around the walls of the dugout.
The hides were from wolves we had killed on the range. They
were full of fleas when first killed, but fleas soon leave a dead
hide. We brought in a number of buffalo skulls to sit on. We
had no table of any kind. Our camp light was a tin can filled
with tallow (rendered up from beeves) with cotton rags torn in
strips and plaited for wicks."
This was in Crosby County in 1879.
Some day a novelist will do for cattle what Frank Norris
planned to do for wheat-a triology of the raising, marketing,
and consuming of beef. Then such books as this which Mr. Burns
and Professor Holden have produced will be indispensable.
EUGENE C. BARKER.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 36, July 1932 - April, 1933. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101093/. Accessed July 31, 2014.