JVotes and Documents
The Chisholm Trail's Mountain of Words
RONALD B. JAGER*
W ITH THE PUBLICATION OF HIS STUDY ON THE CHISHOLM TRAIL,
Wayne Gard seemed at last to have had the final word on this
historic cattle trail, which has been the subject of so many published
works. His extensive, 323-item bibliography in The Chisholm Trail
(1954) would seem to indicate that all else that could be written had
been finally pulled together. Walter P. Webb commented that "Wayne
Gard has focused the lens of scholarship on the subject as no previous
student has."' Mody C. Boatright expressed appreciation for this
"authentic account . . within the covers of a single readable book."'
The volume of previously published material is not surprising. As
one writer noted, "It is no wonder so much has been written about
the Chisholm Trail. It began an epoch in our history and helped
speed a marketing revolution. It gave the nation a taste for beef. And
it spawned a new, distinct type of American character-a strong, re-
sourceful man on horseback who took trouble in his stride and
changed the face of the prairie.""
Although The Chisholm Trail may have pre-empted the field for
a time, it did not foreclose the topic to later writers. Indeed, Wayne
Gard's book seems to have encouraged continued interest. As with
any phenomenon of genuine historic significance, the "definitive
word" is never really said. The Chisholm Trail continues to stand as
a monument in the peculiarly American brand of private business
enterprise. And so the presses have continued to turn out writings,
large and small, vital or incidental, which add, bit by bit, to our
appreciation of what the Chisholm Trail signifies in the history of
the beef cattle industry and in the story of American individualism.
In this year of the Trail's centennial, then, it is appropriate that the
*Mr. Jager is a graduate student in history at the University of Texas.
'Walter P. Webb, "Texas Bloodstream," Saturday Review, XXXVII (September 25,
1954), 15, 33.
'Mody C. Boatright, "Years That Made Cowboys Famous and Rodeos Possible," New
York Herald Tribune Book Review, XXX (June 13, 1954), 4.
'Bob Gray, "Chisholm Trail," Texas and Southwestern Horseman, IX (July, 1965), 32-41.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 71, July 1967 - April, 1968. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117145/. Accessed December 26, 2014.