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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Oregon Cow Rancher

I ran across this old book in an antique store and couldn't pass it up, Pete French, Cattle King, by Elizabeth Lambert Wood, copyright 1951 by the author and published by the Metropolitan Press, Portland, Oregon. The book is a fictional biography of Pete French, who became the biggest cattle rancher in southeast Oregon.

Mr. French was a dreamer ever since his father sent him to work for Doctor Glenn in Jacinto, California, and even in Red Bluff, his hometown, before going south to Jacinto. Red Bluff is south of Redding on the Sacramento River and north of Chico. His dream that kept recurring to him was of a valley in Oregon that he could settle and raise cattle. Doctor Glenn was the person who set him up with that ranch in Harney County after a few years working for him. Pete set about building up the ranch and adding more cattle, even building a big ranch house for his future wife, Ella Glenn, who he had his eyes on since she was eight years' old. They eventually got married, but Ella was a different person than the young girl he knew at Dr. Glenn's house. She wouldn't live on the ranch, hated cattle and anything to do with country life, and lived in San Francisco at the Palace Hotel with money provided by Pete. And he had a lot of it by then, and she lived high on the hog in her very cultured way, while Pete handled the ranching.  He had dreams still and he always wanted a bigger ranch, the biggest in Oregon and anywhere else, he dreamed, even though he had thirty thousand cattle and all the land around, it wasn't enough for him. He bought out all the small settlers and ranches around and kept expanding his territory. Over time, he and Ella were divorced, and the small ranchers and settlers were building up a hatred for Pete French, aided by a fellow named Long John, who finally skipped the country because he was playing both sides.

This was a well written book to my way of thinking, even though it was "encumbered" by a feminine style of writing, very cultured in its way, not like the Luke Short or Max Brand style of writing with action being predominant. Anyway, that was the impression I was left with upon finishing it. I enjoyed the reading of it and recommend that if you run across it, don't look at it and put it down, take it home for a couple of hours of recreational reading if you haven't already read it.

     
The dust jacket was pretty well worn, needing to be mended with scotch tape. I like the sketch of the loner on his horse, exactly the type that Mr. French was.

3 comments:

  1. I like the cover. A number of cowboy memoirs were written by women, and in general they don't do a bad job. There's a problem, though, when a writer attempts to "sanitize" the lives of these rough men, to sort of "make them presentable for company." You begin to wonder how the truth is being stretched. Ha.

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  2. I think you hit the nail on the head, Ron, although in this case, I don't think she "sanitized" it, but it was her writing style that stood out to me. There is a short, straight-forward bio of Peter French at http://boards.ancestry.com/localities.northern.usa.states.oregon.counties.harney/99/mb/ashx and her book is listed at the bottom with two others. Some writers tend to "aggrandize" in their writing, maybe unconsciously.

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