Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Review of "Riding the Northern Range: Poems from the Last Best-West," edited by Ted Stone

Review of

Riding the Northern Range: Poems from the Last Best-West, edited by Ted Stone ISBN 1551050552

Five out of five stars

 Cowboy poetry and the companion cowboy songs were an integral part of the American western frontier. Their appeal continued long after the wild west no longer existed. Witness the large number of movies featuring singing cowboys such as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Roy Rogers was singing in western movies up until roughly 1952 and Autry’s career ended at roughly the same time.

 Given the timeless appeal of this type of literature and the songs that emerged from it, there is no surprise that this collection will move the fan. There is something about verse that describes the harshness and isolation of prairie life, how the winter can be so strong that it wipes out most of the cattle. The cowboys that tend to the cattle are a tough lot, living outside for extended periods, facing the danger of being caught in a stampede and closing it all off with a low end-of-season payoff.

 These poems are not about the gunfights or battles with Native Americans that were popular entertainment fare, they are about living, farming and ranching from Montana to the Dakotas and then on up into Canada. It was a harsh existence where hard work was often not enough, nature also had to provide the essentials of timely rain, calm weather and a lack of insect vermin. Fans of the old west will enjoy these tributes to the life in verse.

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