THE COWBOY WAY by David McCumber


Seasons of a Montana Ranch
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A lively memoir of cowpunching, roping, and riding. A couple of years ago, veteran West Coast journalist and founding editor of Big Sky Journal McCumber (Playing Off the Rail, 1995) decided by way of midlife crisis to remake himself as a Westerner: “I quit my comfortable job, started writing for a living again, divorced, and moved to a little town in Montana.” And what better way to become a true westerner than to become a cowboy? McCumber turned up at the gate of a nearby ranch under the shadow of the towering Crazy Mountains, confessed that he knew nothing whatever about cowboying, and asked for a job. He got one, and these pages detail his transformation from urban sophisticate to cowpuncher—and with none of the cloying sentimentality of the movie City Slickers. Mostly, McCumber writes, his work was backbreaking and unpretty: he had to hose down feces-caked corrals and trucks, treat bulls for venereal disease, mend fences in howling winter storms, and cope with separation from his children. He writes of all these matters assuredly and affectingly, describing well the “numbing sameness of the work and the dreariness of the season.” On the brighter side, he writes with obvious affection of the little tribe of cowboys in whose ranks he was made welcome—but only after proving himself willing to do the hard work required of the crew. McCumber’s glimpse into the world of real cowboying yields surprises for the uninitiated: his cowboys use high-powered radios, favor four-wheel-drive vehicles to horses, read modern British fiction, and eat lasagna. Far from the movie ideal, they turn out to be an unromantic but interesting lot, and McCumber does a fine job of bringing their daily lives to his readers. A solid addition to what might be called New Western Americana. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 10th, 1999
ISBN: 0-380-97341-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999


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