The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

command of the English language, coupled with sound and unimpeachable
research, warrant respect.
As a research tool, this work provides an invaluable wealth of primary
information. The proposed second volume, which will provide a general
index, maps, and biographical data, will facilitate optimum use of this
present landmark of Texian history.
Houston Civil War Round Table BILL WINSOR
Cowboy Life: Reconstructing an American Myth. Edited by William W.
Savage, Jr. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1975. Pp. xii+
208. Photographs. $9.95.)
In the last century the frontier cowboy has become the most prominent
figure in American folklore. In popular songs, in novels, and on movie and
television screens he has been depicted as a symbol for courage, honor,
chivalry, and individualism. On the long trail to distant cattle markets,
with its stampedes, the crossing of swollen rivers, and the driving off of
white and Indian cow thieves, he had many opportunities for heroism. But
now William W. Savage, Jr., believing that the cowboy has been over-
romanticized, seeks to balance the image.
In the introduction to his anthology, Cowboy Life, Savage points out
that the early cowboy was a hired hand whose job was strenuous and dirty,
that his work was more tiring than heroic, more boring than romantic.
Historically, he contends, "the cowboy was an individual of little or no
significance" (p. 5).
Savage seeks to prove his point by presenting more than forty photo-
graphs of pioneer cowboys and their work and by reprinting thirteen early
accounts of cowboy life by men who took part in it or had opportunity to
observe it closely. Writers from whose books these passages are taken include
Joseph G. McCoy, Richard Irving Dodge, Charles A. Siringo, Richard
Harding Davis, W. S. James, and Andy Adams. The longest excerpt is
that of Baylis John Fletcher, who, as a young cowboy, went up the Chis-
holm Trail with a Longhorn herd in 1879.
Readers are bound to disagree on whether or not Savage proves his case.
Almost all will admit that pulp and screen presentations often have distorted
the reality of frontier cowboy life and that a corrective has beer needed.
Yet many may conclude that the excellent photographs and the first-hand
narratives that Savage presents fail to show that, in serious history and
literature, the frontier cowboy has been glorified beyond his merits.
At any rate, it is well to have this effort to turn the cowboy inside out


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 27, 2015.