Longhorns North of the Arkansas. By Ralph F. Jones. (San Antonio:
The Naylor Company, 1969. Pp. ix + 371. Illustrations. $7.95.)
Born and reared in the region about which he writes, Ralph F.
Jones presents an interesting account of the West as it was on the
northern Great Plains in the adventurous days of the open range. He
offers an explanation of the civilization of the Wild West, from the
solution of the Indian problem by the United States Army to the
struggles of the big ranchers who assumed control of the Indianless
region only to face the challenges of overstocking, bad weather, sheep-
men, and homesteaders. The story is worth the telling, and the author
tells it well.
The principal value of the book derives from the personal experi-
ence of the author as a trail hand in the closing days of the open-range
system. Many of his generalizations about cow-camp life and range cus-
toms are apparently based on his own activities in Wyoming in the ear-
ly twentieth century. He knew first-hand the plight of the cattlemen on
a shrinking range when the farmers invaded, the rage of those van-
guards of civilization about having to comply with a federal order to
pull down illegal barbed-wire fences built on government land, their
frustration as they witnessed the Great Plains being plowed up in a
region where even dry farming failed for lack of moisture, and their
surrender of complete political power to share it with newcomers in
a new state.
The author writes with conviction on the changing conditions of
the Wyoming range at the turn of the century, but weakens his story
by inserting unverified and frequently inaccurate accounts of the much
larger sweep of pioneer western life that can best be classified, in this
treatment, as folklore. There are neither source citations nor a bib-
liography. To its credit, though, the book describes an exciting social
and cultural account of influential cattlemen, bad men, outside in-
vestors, range wars, natural disasters, and daily life, and is very effec-
tive if the reader will remember to accept it as a sense or feel of west-
ern history, not as a work of scholarship.
Jones apparently knew many of the characters-outlaws, big ranchers,
small ranchers, politicians-about whom he wrote. One of his most
forceful chapters is his account of the historic Johnson County War.
He condemned the illicit use of force of the big ranchers against the
little ranchers on a flimsy pretext of stamping out rustling, and saw
the outcome as an evolution toward systematic law and justice for
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 74, July 1970 - April, 1971. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101200/. Accessed July 23, 2014.