Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fred Gipson, Cowhand

This is an as-told-to profile of Texas cowhand Ed "Fat" Alford, related as a string of yarns you might hear told around the campfire or the bunkhouse at the end of a hard day's work.

Fat was the oldest of a large family of siblings, never married, who gave his life to cowboying and whatever else in the way of work he could scrounge up during the 1920s and 1930s. Gipson has a gift for making these times and the men who lived them come to life with plenty of good humor, even though they were often struggling just to keep a buck in their jeans.

At a young age, he's obliged to support his mother and her several children when his father dies in an outbreak of meningitis. While often entertaining, Fat's story does a lot to take the romance out of the profession and reveal how much plain, sweaty, dirty, exhausting hard work there is in being a "working cowboy."

Thanks to Texas A&M University Press for keeping this entertaining memoir in print.

Coming up: Ridgwell Cullum, The Sheriff of Dyke Hole (1909)


  1. Yeah, I can imagine it was a hard and dirty and rewarding job all rolled into one.

  2. Having worked cows a fair amount myself, I can agree about the dirt and sweat, and occassional hooves to the softer parts of the body.

  3. Last time I went up to Ann Arbor, I saw several of these sort of accounts in a bookstore I like. I am going to jot down the names on Friday and see if you've covered them.

  4. I've always liked the fiction of Fred Gipson. He wrote the bestselling novel, OLD YELLER, and appeared frequently in the pulps of the 1940's. I've read many his short stories in STAR WESTERN, DIME WESTERN, 10 STORY WESTERN and other Popular Publication magazines.

  5. David, I sensed some of this same attitude in the Chilean miners. Hard work; fierce pride.

    Charles, few things more memorable than getting kicked by a farm animal.

    Patti, I continue to be amazed by how many books like this have been in print. I keep stumbling across one's I haven't read.

    Walker, I didn't mention Gipson's career in that short review, but I'd like to read more of him. The movie of Old Yeller lives in my memory.

    Oscar, your list is getting longer.