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O R L A N S A W E Y Texas A and I University Charlie Siringo: Reluctant Propagandist In 1885 Charles A. Siringo’s A Texas Cow Boy was published by M. Umbdenstock and Company of Chicago. It is generally con­ ceded to be the first of many rangeland reminiscences by a cowboy of the open-range period. In 1886 Siringo and Dobson, Chicago, brought out a revised edition of the book, with a section entitled “Addenda.” This edition, not the first edition, was the one widely reprinted in paperback and sold by newsbutchers on railroad trains, first as Number 56 in the Globe Library Series, Railroad Edition, by Rand, McNally and Company, and later by the J. S. Ogilvie Publishing Company of New York. It was the revised edition that Will Rogers referred to as “the cowboy’s Bible.” It is unfortunate that the 1950 reprint of A Texas Cow Boy, edited by J. Frank Dobie, illustrated by Tom Lea, and published by William Sloane Associates, is of the 1885 instead of the 1886 edition. The Bison Book paperback, printed by the University of Nebraska Press in 1966, is a reprint of the Dobie edition. The first edition of a work is not always the best; one would not want to overlook, for instance, the wonderful chapter headings of later editions of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. And I believe that the 1886 edition of A Texas Cow Boy is more representative of Siringo, because the short “Addenda” section contains some of his most vivid writing. Besides being the first cowboy autobiography of any stature, A Texas Cow Boy is a lively lament for an age that was past, a monument, though perhaps not a monumental work, to the end of the open range. Barbed wire came to the Panhandle of Texas in the early 1880’s, putting an end to free grazing. The first fences were drift fences, built to hold cattle out of (and in) a certain range. The most famous was built by cooperating Panhandle ranchers north of the Canadian River in 1882. The first big enclosure was put up by the T Anchor Ranch in 1881 and 1882. By 1885 most 204 Western American Literature of the Panhandle was fenced in.1 Many cattlemen and cowboys be­ lieved that when the land was fenced in the greatness of the industry had vanished. Siringo was among them. In the early 1880’s Siringo was working for the LX Company, which had established a steer ranch and a small horse ranch in the Indian Territory just south of Caldwell, Kansas. In 1883, while working on the horse ranch, he conceived the idea of writing A Texas Cow Boy, as he tells us in the very funny introduction to the book. He bought some lots in Caldwell and contracted for someone to build a house for his mother. Early in March, 1883, he married May Beals, niece of one of his employers. Early in September of the same year, when he felt that he had not been given enough time off in Caldwell, he, on impulse, quit his job, “swearing off cow-punching.” Three years later he thought he had made a sensible move. The day after he quit the LX he opened a small store—on a “six-bit” scale—in Caldwell.2 A Texas Cow Boy (Siringo used two words or hyphenated the words) is the most colloquial—and the most vital—of all Siringo’s books. He was never again able to write so humorously or with such vivid diction—or at least his editors did not permit him to do so. The sub-title of the volume is Fifteen Years on the Hurri­ cane Deck of a Spanish Pony, Taken from Real Life, by Chas. A. Siringo, an Old Stove-Up “Cow Puncher,” Who Has Spent Nearly Twenty Years on the Great Cattle Ranges. From this title page to the ending of the first edition the book is rollicky. The introduc­ tion, a humorous tall tale, says that the excuse for his writing the book was “money—and lots of it;” Siringo’s account involves il­ literate cowboys, the Police Gazette (which the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 203-210
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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