Friday, November 5, 2010

Mack Hughes, Hashknife Cowboy

Mack Hughes was his parents' third oldest child, with something like seven siblings, almost all of them boys. His father, also a cowboy, brought his family to the huge Hashknife spread near Winslow, Arizona, in the 1920s. Mack quickly came of age there helping to support the family.

When he left again, it was 14 years later, and he'd had a broad range of experiences from cowboying to running trucks of sugar from Phoenix for local bootleggers. We get to know his brothers (one of them a mechanic and lover of cars) and many more cowboys. Some of them Mack is truly fond of and makes no secret of it.

There are accounts of exteme weather, illness, an infestation of scabbies (cattle) and lice (he and a bed-mate) and spectacular wrecks that leave him with broken bones and a smashed face. He is touched by the deaths of good men, and he has near fatal accidents of his own. Once he loses a good horse and saddle over a sheer drop into a deep canyon.

The language is colorful and salty, and with the help of his wife Stella (who wrote the book) he's able to tell a really good yarn. Sometimes it's exciting as he and some friends chase a wild horse, or darkly humorous as they rid the countryside of wild dogs.

Sometimes it's inspiring as he and his family struggle to survive during the Great Depression. The book also has excellent illustrations by Joe Beeler. Thanks to the University of Arizona Press for keeping this fine book in print.

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


  1. The hashknife. NOw there's a name that resonates. I wonder how many westerns used that somewhere in a story.

  2. I always remember that I heard the name "Hashknife" somewhere in a film? It was years ago, so with the onset of senior moments! Cant remember.

    Always see those two guys who together with Joel MacRae, these two guys run the chuck wagon.

  3. Charles, the Hashknife was a well-known ranch in the old day. It's currently in the hands of a fourth generation member of the family. The cowboys from there had (I think I have this right) a rough reputation. I've been wanting to read the Hashknife Hartley and Sleepy Stevens stories to see if there's any connection. Walker Martin would know.

    Cheyenne, I did a little sleuthing at but couldn't come up with anything.

  4. Nice hashing about the Hashknife! I've read two or three or more novels that had a Hashknife outfit in them, a popular name. Wish I could remember the titles.

  5. Noted. Another memoir I would appreciate.

  6. I've read many of the Hashknife Hartley and Sleepy Stevens novelets and novels by W.C. Tuttle. During the twenties, thirties, and forties, he wrote dozens of excellent westerns starring these two rangeland detectives. Hashknife was tough and hardboiled but also compassionate with a sense of humor. This was one of the better series in the pulps, most of the stories appearing in ADVENTURE or SHORT STORIES.

    However, I don't recall any connection with the famous Hashknife spread. Many cowboys simply had all sorts of interesting nicknames.