Irish cowboys and more
The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
March 13, 2021
Imagine sitting in a 1901 dentist chair, waiting for a tooth to be pulled, and the dentist starts telling a tale about the wide open plains, stampedes of wild horses and dusty cowboys, dusty hats and dusty towns. If the dentist was Zane Grey, you might be in for a real adventure! Pearl Zane Gray was born in 1872 when the west still had untamed edges. He became a dentist at his father’s request, after trying out with some baseball teams in the early 1900s. But writing was always his passion and the wild west his dream.
Changing his professional writing name to Zane Grey and visiting the western United States whenever possible, he wrote for men, women and children, stories that fulfilled the wanderlust of the best citified reader. Stories about the tenderfoot, stretching to experience and survive the remoteness of desert and mountains, adventures of both outlaws and cattlemen, wild horses running free, unexpected Indians and Mormons. And of course, cowboys. He romanticized the west, the cowboy, the horses and saloons. People read with relish the life they wished they could embark on but were too timid to try. Grey idolized the Old West and its tales because that is what readers wanted and where his heart was too.
Even after marriage to his wife Dolly and fathering three children, he would go off and roam western lands for more experiences and stories to relate. Fully with encouragement from his wife, she became not only the mother of his children and keeper of his home, but the editor of his manuscripts and his agent to publishers. Grey became the best-selling western author of all time, publishing at least one book a year in his 20s and 30s and writing prolifically up to his death in 1939. When all of his posthumous works were in print, he left us with 89 books, 59 of them westerns, nine with fishing themes, three books of the Gray family in American history and numerous short stories including a biography of George Washington, juvenile fiction that included both cowboy themes and baseball, and many stories that reflected both adventure and the beauty of our majestic lands. He always included the great American spirit found in the early wild west.
Though “Rider of the Purple Sage” was his all time best selling book, my favorite will always be “Under the Tonto Rim” about the city teacher Lucy and the beekeeper she tried not to love. Lucy came to Arizona with a prejudice against cowboys, beekeepers, white mule drinkers and just about anything small town and western. Then she entered Cedar Ridge and came under the spell of Edd Denmeade, a mountain of a man whose integrity was mightier than his height. He was a true American hero and an authentic man of the wild west. Could he change her mind?
Then comes along Hap Wilkes in “The Irish Cowboy” by D.W. Ulsterman. A modern day story takes place on his isolated ranch in Montana, the life of a cowboy still alive and kicking, especially one coming from Irish roots. The boots and hats are still dusty, wild horses grazing the range and roaming free. Except they have an old cowboy who looks out for them and is willing to give his life’s blood to keep them safe. Because they are at the heart of his existence, an existence that holds on to the old ways and honor, and being a true cowboy is expected no matter how much the world has changed around him. Can the old stubborn Irishman manage this last battle between what is right to do against what so called civilized and modern scientific thinking demands? And at what cost?
Becoming a cowboy never gets old, even as high rise buildings fill the cities and empty land becomes suburbs. And we mustn’t forget the cowgirls either. In “I Wanna Be a Cowgirl” by Angela Di Terlizzi, the young cowgirl heads out, riding on her stick pony, dressed in red rubber boots. She milks a cow and feeds the chickens and makes her lasso rope do loop-de-loops. The call of the wild never gets old, even in this 21st century. Being a cowboy or cowgirl can be imagined by anyone, reached for in dreams and expounded from the safety of our homes, or by driving away from the city lights into the deserts and up to the mountain tops. It is there that the stars shine brightest and the lone call of the coyote reminds us there are still untamed lands to explore where wild horses run free, and so many books are ready to take us there.
*Midge Lyn’dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.