THE REAL WILD WEST by Michael Wallis


The 101 Ranch and the Creation of the Ameircan West
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A wild and woolly history of a cowpoke mecca. Missouri-born writer Wallis (Way Down Yonder in the Indian Nation, 1993, etc.) has spent the better part of his prolific career explaining Oklahoma to the rest of the world. With The Real Wild West, whose subtitle is a touch overblown, he turns his attention to the big chunk of the state that a famed ranch took in for several decades: the 101, owned by the Miller Brothers dynasty, a 110,000-acre spread that produced cattle, grain, and western myth in roughly equal portions. The western myth element, as Wallis ably shows, came from the Miller Brothers’ well-tuned sense of self-promotion: onto their ranch came such characters as Geronimo, Will Rogers, Buffalo Bill, and Tom Mix, the last a Hollywood cowboy who worked on the ranch for a short time. (Another Hollywood cowboy, John Wayne, learned “how to ride and how to walk with a cowboy’s rolling gait” under the tutelage of a 101 alumnus, Yakima Canutt.) With an eye for the Big Picture and a sweeping style, Wallis traces the fortunes of the ranch from a political and economic powerhouse to its eventual decline some decades ago. Along the way, he turns up some nicely pointed commentary that has not been often used before, such as historian Emerson Hough’s remark that “the chief figure of the American West, the figure of the ages, is not the long-haired, fringed-legged man riding a rawboned pony, but the gaunt and sad-faced woman sitting on the front seat of the wagon, following her lord where he might lead.” Wallis gives those sad-faced women room to speak in his book, but as might be expected, the rootin’-tootin’ cowpokes speak louder, blustering from roundup to feud to the occasional gunfight. This is western history told with twang and flair, and fans of Lonesome Dove and Louis L’Amour should eat it up. (16 pages color, 32 pages b&w photos)

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-19286-X
Page count: 640pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1999


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