Yodelling in Heaven

Glen Baxter

It seems that the likes of Edward Larocque Tinker, Robert P. Swierenga and Colonel John S. ‘Rip’ Ford have all made valuable contributions to our knowledge of the cowboy world, and Richard Slatta’s Cowboys of the Americas[*] sets out to illuminate the structures and processes behind the historical underpinning behind those who wear spurs. On reaching page 219 of this fascinating tome, the reviewer smoothed down a crease in his chaps and came upon the following lines: ‘We have ridden a long way with the cowboys of the Americas. What have we learned about them, collectively, and as distinctive social groups?’ At this precise moment the diminutive, bewhiskered figure of Gabby Hayes burst into the room wagging a dusty finger and spluttering: ‘You just hold it one durn tootin’ minute, young feller!’ One can indeed sympathise with the grizzled little chap, for it was he whose sudden bursts of insight helped to enliven many a sagebrush saga as they flickered across the screens of a post-war England. The joy of this particular book, however, lies not so much in its predomination of socio-historical scholarship, as in the minutiae of cowboy life.

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[*] Yale, 306 pp., £19.95, 29 November 1990, 0 300 045298.