Tuesday, October 12, 2010

John Erickson, Panhandle Cowboy

This is an enjoyable cowboy memoir for any reader interested in the day-to-day, season-by-season work of modern-day cowboying and running a ranch. The author describes in this well-written book his four years (1974-78) of single-handedly managing a cow-calf operation on 5000 acres of sandy grassland in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

The writing is precise and informative, full of love for the life he has chosen, admiration for the hard-working men who are his friends and neighbors, and a deepening understanding of the ranch's four not-always-cooperative horses. There's also a good deal of humor in the book, much of it owing to the particularly unmanageable nature of the cattle on the ranch.

An episode of fruitlessly chasing two wild cows through a series of pasture fences qualifies as bona fide cowboy comedy. We also read how the author gets a reputation for picking the worst weather for fall roundups. The book ends on a soberer note, as Erickson is told that the ranch is being sold and that he's out of a job. While he's happy enough to clear the ranch of the hateful cattle that have tried his patience, there's a bittersweetness as he parts with the horses that we've come to know so well.

This is the first, and maybe best, of a series of books by the author about his ranching experiences. It was followed by Cowboy Country and LZ Cowboy. As in the others, the text of this book is illustrated with a number of nicely selected black and white photographs.

Larry McMurtry has some interesting words to say about cowboys by way of introduction (he's usually not so appreciative). For kids of all ages, Erickson is also the author of a series of genuinely funny children's books about Hank the Cow Dog.

Coming up: Emerson Hough's Heart's Desire (1905)


  1. I have already ordered this one from Amazon.

  2. I had no idea there were so many different cowboy memoires, or at least that they were available. We are living in a world of plenty it seems.

  3. Cheyenne, you will enjoy it.

    Charles, I've got lots more. Many, alas, are out of print.