I recently returned from Colorado and a visit to my grandchildren. It was, as always, a wonderful experience.
During my visit, I was searching through the junk pile at a local garage sale when I spotted the perfect book for my grandchildren: Cowboys of the Wild West. It was published by Scholastic Books.
When I was a child, we were sent home with paper advertising fliers from Scholastic Books listing all kinds of wonderful childrens' books that sometimes cost as little as 25 cents. The book I held in my hands suddenly represented many things to me--time with the grandchildren, memories of my own childhood, and stories about my favorite subject: the American West!
It was as if the book was written just for me. I paid my quarter, drove back to my daughter's house, sat down with my grandchildren and started to read.
From the first page, I knew I had a priceless gem in my hands.
Cowboys of the Wild West was written by Russell Freedman in 1985. Freedman was raised in San Francisco in the 1930s, and according to his book, believed a cowboy was "a fellow who says "yup' and 'nope,' who never complains, who shoots straight, and whose horse comes when he whistles."
Freedman was raised during a time when Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry were at the peak of their careers, influencing young cowboys across America, and during a time when Hollywood great John Wayne averaged ten films a year.
As Freedman grew older, started work with The Associated Press, and started researching cowboys, he learned--as all wanna-be cowboys do--that work as a cowboy is dirty, thankless, and exhausting, far from what one sees in the movies with shiny boots, neatly pressed white shirts and white cowboy hats. (How on earth could a real cowboy ever keep white clothes clean?
Freedman's little paperback childrens' book covers everything from the history of the cowboy to branding, ranch life, cowboy attire, and even cowboy songs.
Freedman explains the purpose of chaps, which were generally made of wool, leather, or fur and protected the cowboy's legs from burrs and brush burns.
He also explains the importance of vests with deep pockets, a necessity when riding the range as it is difficult for a cowboy to reach into his pants pockets while riding a horse!
In addition to the carefully detailed explanations, Freedman's book is filled with dozens of vintage and contemporary photographs and drawings, making it a wonderful historical adventure for cowboys young and old.
Cowboys of the Wild West was still published in 1990 and it is possible to locate copies in online stores, which I would highly recommend. It is more than a childrens' book in my opinion, it is a priceless treasure.
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