The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983

Book Reviews

have argued for the best interests of their respective causes, and Hen-
drickson is a competent referee in presenting both sides of issues in
contention. Conflict, however, should not be overstressed; the BRA has
for the most part enjoyed a compatible working relationship with
other government agencies, as well as public support, even as the
problems of servicing a major watershed have grown more complex.
Hendrickson also pays tribute to the efforts of General Manager Wal-
ter J. Wells, who from 1962 until his death in i980 helped shape BRA
policy and developments. Generously illustrated with photographs and
maps, which blessedly are relevant to the chapters where they are
placed, this book offers detailed information on the growth of the BRA
and a broader understanding of its service to the region.
Los Angeles Valley College ABRAHAM HOFFMAN
The Modern Cowboy. By John R. Erickson. (Lincoln, Neb.: Univer-
sity of Nebraska Press, 1981. Pp. xii+247. Author's note, photo-
graphs, bibliography, acknowledgments. $15.95.)
From the text, John Erickson is obviously a working cowboy, prob-
ably in his forties, but he doesn't write like a cowboy. Since this is his
third book in four years, I can only surmise that he possesses ambitions
as a writer. If he doesn't, he should. I had expected this book to be a
dry-as-dust handbook on modern cowboying. Instead, it is a small lit-
erary triumph that I found difficult to put down. I started reading it at
to o'clock one night as a kind of wind-down effort and finished it at 6
o'clock the next morning. I never could find a place I wanted to stop.
Erickson explodes a number of historical myths along the way. And
he doesn't hesitate to take on the chronicling cowboy clergy of the past.
He points out, for instance, that though J. Frank Dobie is the sage of
the sagebrush, he never was a cowboy. To Dobie, the author says, cow-
boys were always them, never us. Dobie saw the romance of the range
from an owner's or professor's seat. He lacked the feel of J. Evetts
Haley, who had wrestled a few steers and could write about cowboy life
without turning belletristic. Erickson also points out the inconsisten-
cies of that other, louder-mouth saint, Ben K. Green. While he con-
cedes that Green knew horses and cows, he doubts that Green ever ex-
perienced cowboying-and he makes a strong case for his doubts.
The Modern Cowboy takes chapter titles like "Pickups and Trail-
ers"; "What He Looks Like, What He Wears"; "Calving Out Heif-
ers"; and "Economics and the Cowboy," and makes them sing. In most
hands such chapter titles would hold content interesting only to dog-

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101209/. Accessed October 20, 2014.