Sunday, September 29, 2013

I Wanna Be a Cowboy

I wanna be a cowboy and I left home at fifteen to become one. This story by Ross Santee, Cowboy, illustrated by the author, was first printed in 1928 and reprinted in 1964 by ACE BOOKS, INC. It's the story of a young kid that leaves home to become a cowboy and he never looks back, at least not for three years when he finally gets around to sending his mother a letter. During that time he's done a lot of job hunting, traveling miles between ranches to see if anyone's hiring. Finally, he shows up at a ranch and stays awhile, washing dishes, feeding the chickens, etc., until they finally let him ride a bronc. He ends up on his rear end on the ground with both hands full of dirt. But he is determined to show them that he is destined for this type work and hangs in there. He becomes good enough to be hired on as the wrangler at twenty bucks a month and he goes on to become a full-fledged cowpuncher. He started out from East Texas and ends up in Arizona and along the way he has some exciting times working at different places and meeting new cowmen.

In my estimation, this novel was one of the best I've read on cowboy-ing. It is written in the first person using the language and dialects of the times. "A splendid book which must take its place as a genuine classic of the genre..." says the LA Times, and I can't disagree with that. It's serious, funny, dramatic, and full of wranglin' and cowpunching as the kid, called "Button", makes his way across the West. He meets some great cowboys and some not so great, with tales about and from most of them.  It kept my interest from the first page to the last of the 160 in the book. For instance, he finally gets around to attending his first "baile" (dance) put on in town by the miners, where there is only room for twelve people to dance at a time, and between the girls and the crowding, you can guess what happens. I had a good laugh from it.

If I could write half as good as Mr. Santee, I wouldn't have to worry about getting published.



  1. I remember thoroughly enjoying this book when I read it years ago. It is beautifully told. I believe the title character was based on an actual cowboy. I would also recommend Santee's memoir of his years in the West, Lost Pony Tracks.

  2. Although there wasn't anything in the book that says it was based on a real cowboy, it was dedicated "For Shorty Caraway - top hand." The descriptions of the cowboy in the book fit in with "Shorty," not a very tall man, quite slender and small compared to the average cowboy. I will look for Lost Pony Tracks or check it out of the library. I would very much like to read this memoir.