THE RANCHERS: A Book of Generations by Stan Steiner

THE RANCHERS: A Book of Generations

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Western writer Steiner (La Raza, The Vanishing White Man) has compiled an oral history of the lives of old-time ranchers in the Far West. Their homesteads all seem to be about 30 miles from the nearest town, but the ranchers are a diverse lot of uppity individualists--like Rita Hall who ranches with her daughter in a New Mexico ghost town and singlehandedly held off the new expressway for a year (""My cows didn't need that highway"") or Boyd Charter whose father rode with Butch Cassidy and who refused to lease his Montana lands to coal strip-miners. An embattled lot, they talk about their efforts to preserve their old way of life (""When we die, America dies"") and about that life itself: self-sufficient (""making jelly jars from whiskey bottles""), adventurous (""We were the last-known wagontrain""), cooperative (""neighbors used to look out for each other""), and hard (""the cattle was just as tough as we was""). Steiner devotes one section to the ranch women, often better-educated than the men and city-bred, many ranching on their own. Although the ranchers frequently talk in the sardonic, understated mode of western storytelling, their tales are real and not sentimentalized. (""Me? Do I want to stay on the ranch? Shit, no!"") As a composite picture of the vanishing rancher, the volume is informative--a historically valuable antidote to the TV cowboy--and sometimes moving.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1980
Publisher: Knopf