Reading “Badluck Way” (see April 17) reminded me of this wonderful memoir of cowboy life in 1882. Like Bryce Andrews, Andy Adams worked with cattle. Unlike Andrews, he didn’t get to stay in one place. Adams drove cattle from Texas to Montana as part of a crew of about a dozen men. The work was so hard that each cowboy used a string of 10 or more horses. The cattle herd being driven numbered several thousand. The possibilities for things going wrong were numerous and complex. A stampede was one of the most dreaded types of mischance.
This book is old fashioned and straightforward. The teenaged Adams sought out the adventure of a cattle drive and he recounts it (after the fact – the book was originally published in 1903) with energy and precision. Much of it is charming. Consider his discussion of how to determine who got the ONE extra egg available on the unusual occasion when a nest of turkey eggs had been found. Adams having found the eggs, he said “I felt that the odd egg, by rights, ought to fall to me, but… I yielded. A number of ways were suggested to allot the odd egg, but the gambling fever in us being rabid, raffling or playing cards for it seemed to be the proper caper. Raffling had few advocates.” Said one of his co-workers, “Poker is a science…What have I spent 20 years learning the game for?” There follows ten pages of description of card playing, tale telling and singing… I felt like I knew each man on the crew.
If you enjoy Western literature, don’t miss this first class book! In addition to telling a gripping tale, it provides extensive information about geography, ecology, climate, agriculture and sociology.