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Reviews 311 and boot-deep dust. But too often these are as generally described as the posed photograph on pages 54, labelled “Cowboy at Work” or coyly and prudishly treated like the next picture (on page 55), obviously taken in a brothel, complete with boozing whores and tipsy cowboys, and labelled “Cow­ boy not at work.” None of these captions does anything to help the reader interested in any of these pictures’ historicity. What results—after reading all four of these books over a long weekend —is a kind of sad resignation, the realization that nothing much can probably be done about the continued publication of repetitive books about the cow­ boy, particularly those which lean exclusively on his romantic image, thor­ oughly ingrained in the reading public by 60 years of exposure to his literary and motion-picture figure. There would seem to be no way, at this late date, of exchanging this image for that of actuality. Not only does his descendant— the hardy hopeful who continues to practice what is left of his profession— continue to believe in him, but it is possible that even his original, the cowboy of the 1880s, began to pose very early as his romantic self, if contemporary photographs are any indication. Perhaps it is simply that there is nothing so basically appealing to human nature as the heroic horseman, an atavistic conviction of chivalry which none of us can resist. If so, then these books must be given their due. They outline undeviatingly the image of the cow­ boy as their readers wish to see him. J o h n B a r sn ess, Montana State University A Picture Report of the Custer Fight. By William Reusswig. (New York: Hastings House, 1967. 184 pages. $8.50.) While many critics have launched their review of a new Custer book with a resigned and almost ritualistic nod to the “already swollen bibliography of Custeriana,” few have had occasion to comment on the equally bloated corpus of Custer art. Their chance will come in the near future when Don Russell’s thorough study of the Custer paintings makes its appearance. In the meantime, there is William Reusswig’s A Picture Report of the Custer Fight to be considered. Reusswig, who is already familiar to devotees of “Last Stand” paintings for a superior version which he executed for Colliers in 1951 to commemorate the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the fight, has now essayed the broader subject of the Battle of the Little Big Horn in a series of pencil drawings accompanied 312 Western American Literature by a concise text. In approaching his book, the reader is advised to take the title literally, skim or skip the text (which is breezy, often arbitrary, and contains its quota of minor errors), and concentrate on the sketches. Reusswig is an accomplished illustrator, and for the most part his drawings are welldone , though of varying degrees of interest. I see little merit in re-creating a scene or portrait directly from an existing photograph. For example, the sketch showing Custer’s 1874 Black Hills Expedition wending its way through Castle Creek Valley suffers in comparison to the marvelous Illingworth photo­ graph which it copies. Similarly, the various portraits scattered throughout the book are all based on familiar photographs. Reusswig’s action drawings, on the other hand, are unique, and a few are exceptional. In an endeavor of this sort, the artist-historian must be granted his starting premise: “My purpose is to produce a picture report of how the epic struggle might have looked at one moment during its short duration . Even so, . . . the result will be a product of educated guesswork.” The success or failure of Reusswig’s effort depends, then, on the quality of his “educa­ tion” : his knowledge of the terrain, the people involved, costumes, equipment, and the battle itself. On all counts, Reusswig exhibits a general competence that is only occasionally marred by blunders. The least understandable of these are the red and white guidons which he has the Seventh carrying. He knows better, for his classic Colliers “Last Stand” correctly showed the stars and stripes guidon in use at that time. The error...


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pp. 311-312
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