Life in the Old West

True stories, tall tales, memorabilia of the American West

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Western books you need: Buy David Dary’s ‘Cowboy Culture’


Ever wonder when, where, and why “cowboys” came from? (And why are they called “cowboys” and not “horse boys”?) I would highly recommend a very readable, classic Western history book that contains the answers for just about any questions you’ve got about cowboys and the West where they lived and thrived. The book is “Cowboy Culture: A Saga of Five Centuries” by David Dary. (If you follow the link I’ve created to the book title, you’ll find copies available on eBay.)

Dary’s Cowboy Culture book is not new, and I’m sure there are newer, similar book available about cowboys and all things related. But Dary’s may still be the best. It’s remained in print in one form or another for more than 20 years, because it simply is both thorough and thoroughly entertaining. He rightly begins with the Spanish roots of horses, cattle, and men who handled them in the Western Hemisphere, tracing the development of cowboys and cowboy culture from Mexico up through Texas, California, and those regions we now call the American Southwest.

Cowboy culture shaped nature of Plains cattle towns

He shares fascinating insights into the growth of the so-called cow towns in Kansas and other Plains states that grew up at the trails’ end of the major cattle drives, the places where the cowboys’ work ended and their cattle were turned over to the railroads for shipment to the towns and cities back East.

A browse through the book’s table of contents and comprehensive index reveals the wealth of information about real-life cowboys and their adventures and misadventures. The book is chocked full of interesting graphs and illustrations of the impact the cowboys had on the West’s cattle trade and wealth — along with some great excerpts from period newspaper accounts and outstanding old photos and drawings about cowboys.

Take a good look around used bookstores in your area, search eBay and other online sites, and find yourself a copy of Cowboy Culture. If you’re a lover of all things Western, you won’t regret owning this wonderful little book.