Publisher: Texax Christian University Press
Copyright date: 1971
Format: Western literature
Reason for Reading: I wanted a look at a Western award-winner
Award Won: Spur Award from the Western Writers of America
Hitch (Hugh Hitchcock) is a wagon boss for one of the self-made ranchers in the Canadian River area of Texas. Hitch is a single man in his thirties who loves the life of a cowboy. It’s hard work for very little pay but he likes the freedom of the open range and the outdoor life. It’s also a way for a man to build his own herd.
The story takes place in 1883 but it’s important to understand how ranches and cowboy life was prior to this date. For thirty or forty years prior to this time period a cattle business could be started with a small herd, raised on open grass land and built into a larger herd. Ranchers claimed certain areas as their own but the cattle still roamed wherever they wished. Cowboys worked for the ranchers but they were also free to brand the maverick calves as their own and thus build their own herds.
As is normal in all of life, things began to change. Big money from the East and from Europe invested in big ranchers and it was now all about the money. The cowboy life and the ways he had been used to are about to change abruptly. Ranchers banded together with new rules for the cowboys which would severely restrict their freedoms. So, the cowboys joined together and did the unthinkable – they went on strike.
An employee strike may seem like a modern technique, but it really happened. Elmer Kelton based his story on an actual event in Texas in 1883. This little piece of real history was an excellent way to look at the changing life of the cowboys and the frontier.
This honest look at the life of the frontier cowboy was refreshing. In those days cowboy life was not as it has been depicted in so many novels, movies and tv programs. They did not spend their time fighting with Indians. In fact, most of them seldom wore guns. They worked long, long hours for very low wages. The only hope they had was the ability to build their own empires.
The Day the Cowboys Quit was full of numerous twists and turns. The dialogue was natural, and the characters were complicated enough to be believable. In short, it lived up to my A+ expectations. I strongly recommend this novel to anyone interested in a realistic look at the frontier cowboy’s life.
About the author:
First of all, Elmer Kelton was a Texan, born, raised, lived and died there. He was best known for his realistic portrayal of ranching and cowboy life in the West during the 1800s. Kelton was also a journalist and editor for forty-two years. He wrote over forty Western novels, one of which was made into a TV movie. Seven of his novels received the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America for Best Western Novel. Three of his novels received the Western Heritage Award. Kelton has also received numerous other awards and honorary doctorate degrees. He was greatly appreciated for his contribution to the literary heritage of the West, and in particular, Texas.