The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978 Page: 352
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
West. Subsequent publications concerning Negro soldiers, miners, ex-
plorers, farmers, and town builders have heightened public awareness
of this long neglected phase of American history, but these later topical
studies have not superseded the original demand for tales of black con-
tributions to the fabled cattle kingdom of the late nineteenth century.
Bailey Hanes's biography of Bill Pickett attempts to capitalize on this
interest by profiling the life of one of the most celebrated cowboys ever
to ride the range.
Bill Pickett grew up in a race-conscious Texas during the volatile
years following the Civil War. Despite the existence of an obvious color
line which barred blacks from many rodeo events, his exploits attracted
sufficient attention to land him a permanent job with the Miller
Brothers ioi Ranch in 1908. From this Northcentral Oklahoma setting
grew the Miller Brothers Ranch Wild West Show, and Pickett became
its star performer. Though skillful in all the diverse duties of a cowboy,
this "Dusky Demon" won praise for his unique style of bulldogging, in
which he sank his teeth into the upper lip of the steer before throwing
it to the ground in record time. Tours through Europe and Latin
America gained him world-wide fame, but the success never destroyed
his simple lifestyle, basic honesty, and devotion to his family. Though
his belated 1971 induction into the Cowboy Hall of Fame came thirty-
nine years after his death, Pickett's legend survived the interim years
and his place in history now seems assured.
Utilizing the life of Bill Pickett as a microcosmic study of black
frontier experiences represents a promising undertaking for any author.
Unfortunately Hanes never places his narrow story into the broader
context that it demands. The impact of race issues upon Pickett's life
receives only minor consideration, despite the fact that his career
spanned an age of increasing Jim Crowism and brutal lynchings. Per-
haps Pickett's life was unique in that he found acceptance in a white-
controlled world which denied justice to so many thousands of other
people, but what price did he pay for this acceptance? Without realiz-
ing it, the author describes an individual who turned his back on blacks
and found his new identity among whites.
In fairness to Hanes, he has successfully accomplished the goal that
he established for himself-to dramatize the rodeo career of Bill Pickett.
He draws from newspaper accounts and personal interviews with
Pickett's associates to capture the heioic events. A comprehensive bibli-
ography somewhat compensates for the lack of footnotes; and numerous
photographs help supplement the narrative. Still, one would hope that
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978, periodical, 1977/1978; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101205/m1/392/: accessed January 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.