Cowboys and Kansas: Stories from the Tallgrass Prairie

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University of Oklahoma Press, Jan 1, 1997 - History - 240 pages
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Rodeo cowboys, movie cowboys, television cowboys, pulp-western cowboys, singing cowboys, drugstore cowboys, urban cowboys, line-dance cowboys, and weekend cowboys ultimately all owe their existence to the working cowboy who earns his living on a ranch or, in the old days, earned it as a drover. And without Kansas, the working cowboy, America's greatest folk hero, would not have developed into the national symbol we all know. In Cowboys and Kansas Jim Hoy educates and entertains us with essays and tales about cowboy life that are based on personal experience, folklore, and history. He explains how the post-Civil War, large-scale cattle drives from Texas (where many cattle were produced but could not be fattened on sand, sagebrush, and mesquite) to the tallgrass and railheads of Kansas gave birth to a folk culture that spread throughout the West. Even the high-heeled cowboy boot began in Kansas. Hoy combines scholarly interest in the subject with firsthand experience as a working cowboy to tell simple but finely crafted tales about every conceivable dimension of ranch and trail life. He knows a good story when he hears one, and he has driven many a back road seeking out old-timers with yarns to spin. Introduced to cowboys, famous and obscure, historical and contemporary, we hear them tell about troublesome horses they have ridden, rattlesnakes they have encountered, outlaws they have met. We experience the details of the cowhand's daily work (roping, counting, and shipping cattle, riding with a trail herd) and play (rodeos, horse races, roping contests, poetry). We meet women drovers, Wild West show riders, and jockeys in a section on cowgirls, and we learn the history of cowboy boots, pants, hats, and saddles. A set of essays on animals describes the ways of long-horns, wild cattle, and cold-jawed horses. Wit and warmth abound in this collection of engaging tales. Hoy's easy-going style invites the reader - whether connoisseur of western Americana, folklorist, rancher, or urban cowboy - to savor the simple pleasures of a distinctively American life-style.

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About the author (1997)

Jim Hoy, director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at Emporia State University, was reared on a Flint Hills ranch near Cassoday, Kansas. He is the author of Flint Hills Cowboys: Tales of the Tallgrass Prairie and has lectured on the American cowboy in Germany, England, New Zealand, and Australia. A past president of the Kansas State Historical Society and past chair of the board of trustees of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, Hoy was inducted into the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2004.

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