Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ralph Moody, The Home Ranch

This cowboy memoir is a bit different from the rest. It is more about ranch work than the open range, and the cattle business is in milk cows rather than raising beef. Notably, "womenfolk" also figure into the picture, a change from the usual all-male accounts of early-days cowboying.

Written more like a novel than a memoir, the book tells of Moody's summer as a very young cowhand on a ranch in the foothills of the Rockies, outside Colorado Springs. The year is 1911 and Moody is just 12 years old, already helping to support his widowed mother.

The book is full of closely observed details about the day-to-day work of ranching with horses. A reader becomes easily immersed in this world and its routines of rounding up, cutting, sorting, and driving cattle, picking and using a string of horses. There are also the adventures occasioned by dust storms, a flooding stream, and getting lost in the mountains while cutting trees for fence posts.

The other ranch hands are well drawn, including a villainous character who starts a vividly described fist fight in the bunkhouse. For the fatherless Moody, the boss and foreman provide the nurturing support needed by a youngster becoming a man.

Meanwhile, the foreman's strong-willed daughter (to whom the book is dedicated) cuts her own wide swath through the story's narrative. Moody, who took up writing in his later years, is a masterful storyteller and makes this bygone world come to life.

Coming up: B. F. Day, Gene Rhodes, Cowboy (1954)


  1. Sounds like a good reference work. I've worked cattle but we never branded ours. and we did our work mostly in vehicles rather than horseback.

  2. If I ever decide to try my hand at writing a western story, this sounds like a good book to read first.

  3. Leah, thanks for dropping by again.

    Charles, I've seen branding once. It's the cutting of the male calves that you have to have stomach for.

    Cheyenne, you could be right.

    Patti, maybe if you're plans are for a coming-of-age ranch romance.

  4. This is the third book in a series of memoirs by Moody. My mother read them aloud to our family, and our favorites were the first book, Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers and this one. I'd highly recommend the whole series. It begins in the early 1900s when Moody's family moved to a ranch in Colorado and continues through his experiences in the early Dust Bowl days, hopping freights, bossing a wheat harvest crew and even doing stunts on early silent Westerns.