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Readin' Round-Up

By Dave Remley
 

Cowboy Life on the Llano Estacado, by V. H. Whitlock (Ol' Waddy). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970, repr. in pbk., 2011, 278 pp. $19.95.

 

"Ol' Waddy" was the pen name of Vivian H. Whitlock who wrote for newspapers and magazines for thirty years. As a boy, he and his brother and widowed mother moved in with Vivian's Uncle George Causey, a buffalo hunter turned rancher on the Llano Estacado. As every eastern New Mexican and every Texan knows, the Llano Estacado is that vast oval shaped plain covering much of eastern New Mexico and West Texas. The New Mexico side of the oval is rimmed by the "Caprock," the Texas side by both caprock and breaks, from which sweetwater creeks flow easterly onto the grass covered plains of central and the Panhandle.

Here were developed some of the largest of Texas cattle ranches, mostly developed with money from English, Irish, and American investors who lived in cities like London, Dublin, New York, and Chicago. The Matador, the Espuela, the Pitchfork, the Four Sixes, and the largest of them all, the XIT, were prime examples. The XIT brand was said erroneously to stand for "Ten In Texas" - counties that is. The Four Sixes (called simply "the Sixes") is still in the family of its founder Burk Burnett.

George Causey's ranch lay near Yellow House Canyon a few miles west of present day Lubbock. The area was a gathering place for local Plains Indian people, and later for buffalo hide hunters because of the water usually present in Yellow House Creek which flowed from a yellow clay hill said to resemble a house.

Young Whitlock did what other kids of his time and place did. He worked at whatever was at hand and needed doing. Most all this work involved cows, horses, and ropes. It was hard labor, and it was damned dangerous work. Few kids today, in our time of air conditioned pickups with soft, adjustable seats, would be up to it.

Young Whitlock also met the colorful characters of his day. There were drifting cowboys, many of them on the dodge. There were Texas Rangers taking prisoners to trial or to jail, and their were homesteaders, called "nesters," with teams pulling covered wagons. Whitlock himself as a teen age hand took a job cowboying for the LFD, a brand used by George Littlefield who later owned the great LFT.

The boy visited the raw frontier towns of the Texas Panhandle, including Old Tascosa on the Canadian River, probably the toughest town of them all. He went to early day rodeos and barbecues. And he eloped with a pretty girl who became his wife.

This entertaining book, published by OU Press in 1970 and just reprinted in paperback, is a must have for everyone who likes tales of old-time cowboying, of running into steely eyed outlaws with Colts and Winchesters, or who enjoys just plain saddling up the old hoss, and taking a long ride in the breaks on a sunny day. ~DR

 

 


BOOK REVIEWS BY DAVE REMLEY

 


 
 
Charles Goodnight: Father of the Texas Panhandle, by William T. Hagan. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007, pbk., 147pp., $19.95.

A quintessential western figure, "Charlie" Goodnight's name stands out among those of other famous cattlemen of the 19th century - the pioneer Oliver Loving, Col. Richard King, Burk Burnett, C. C. Slaughter, Mifflin Kenedy, S. M. Swenson, and W. T. Waggoner, all of Texas; Granville Stuart and "Con" Kohrs of Montana; Alexander H. Swan of Wyoming; John W. Iliff of Colorado; Miller and Lux of California; and John Chisum and Lucien Maxwell of New Mexico.

Born in Illinois in 1836, Goodnight reached Texas in 1846. In 1857 he went to Palo Pinto County where he rode as a ranger and Indian Scout. During the Civil War, though himself opposed to war, he decided that, "If I was going to fight I had better fight to defend our homes." He then scouted for a Confederate frontier regiment fighting Indians.

After the War he teamed up with Oliver Loving driving cattle to New Mexico to market to the U. S. Army at Fort Sumner. Thus was born the famous Goodnight-Loving Trail from Fort Belknap in Texas to the Horsehead Crossing of the Pecos, then northerly up the river to Fort Sumner. On the third of these drives, Indians fatally shot Loving along the Pecos.

Later, Goodnight estabished a ranch near Pueblo, Colorado, where he undertook "improving" native cattle with a meaty English breed, the Durham, and later the Hereford. In 1876 he moved his herd of 1600 cattle to Palo Duro Canyon in Texas.

Shortly he entered a partnership with an upper crust Irishman named John G. Adair. For Goodnight, this partnership was a mixed blessing. The two men never liked each other, and the Irishman seldom visited his ranch. Adair is supposed to have refused to sit at the dinner table with a cowboy "because a cowboy was a servant." What the snooty Irishman did have was money, lots of money. Eventually Goodnight, who built up and managed the entire operation, was said to have run a hundred thousand head of cattle on a million acres of land.

Over the following years, he experimented with crossing cattle with buffalo, called "cattalo," and he gained fame for preserving the bison in a day when commercial hide hunters had nearly exterminated the big shaggies.

In 1887 he and Cornelia Wadsworth Ritchie, Adair's widow, ended the partnership. She kept the home ranch, the "Palo Duro," with its famous brand, the JA. Still in the Ritchie family, the JA was said by 1945 to spread for sixty miles up and down Palo Duro Canyon south of Clarendon. Goodnight received the "Quitaque" Division, pronounced Kitty Kay. In 1890, he sold the Quitaque, then operated a small ranch near Goodnight, Texas, a tiny town named of course for him. He died in his nineties on December 12, 1929, while wintering in Tucson.

The colorful biography of Goodnight, J. Evetts Haley's Charles Goodnight, Cowman and Plainsman, appeared in 1936. It remains a great book of Texas history.

Hagan's biography retells Charlie's story in less detail, while adding information and insights Haley's lacks, particularly on the nature of Goodnight's business acumen, his wizardry in upgrading cattle, and his rather poor performance as an investor. Hagan reveals that Cornelia Ritchie Adair, a superior businesswoman, "took" Charlie in the breakup of the partnership, a fact he brooded over for the rest of his life.

This is a well written life story of a very important westerner, a model in fact for others, and a welcome adddition to Haley's work. Every cowman, and every westerner, will want to add this one to his or her own library. -DR


Manhattan Project to the Santa Fe Institute: The Memoirs of George A. Cowan, by George A. Cowan. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010, cloth, 175pp., $27.95.

George A. Cowan is one of the very few men and women still living who brought "the Atomic Age" into being. He was a sophomore student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1938 when the announcement appeared in the newspapers that German scientists had just produced nuclear fission. Cowan cut out the historic announcement from his paper and brought the article to class. His professor then gave a lecture on the subject, concluding that the use of fission to build a bomb was unlikely.

After earning his undergraduate degree in chemistry, Cowan went on to Princeton for graduate work where he was invited to join the university's cyclotron research program. By now, two World Wars were raging, one in Europe with the Germans, the other in the Pacific with the Japanese.

Meantime, the top secret "Manhattan Project" was underway at the University of Chicago. Manhattan's object was to create nuclear fission that might be used to build a bomb like no other the world had ever seen, and to accomplish it before the Germans did.

In 1942 Princeton's cyclotron scientists were moved to Chicago to join Manhattan. Cowan was one of this group. He remained in Chicago until after the project successfully produced controlled fission (of all places, in a pile placed under the University of Chicago football stadium, presumably where spies would be least likely to notice). It is indeed a historic site, in importance not unlike White Sands in New Mexico where the first bomb was actually tested. About 1956 I visited the Manhattan site myself.

When the project was completed at the University of Chicago, Cowan moved to Los Alamos National Laboratory where he remained at work in research in nuclear chemistry and physics for nearly forty years. Late in life he was a founder of the Santa Fe Institute, a community of students devoted to discussing ways of "finding common ground" between the worlds of natural science and of general human affairs, a most difficult subject, more difficult probably than developing nuclear fission.

This is a book that students of the nuclear age will want to read. Cowan knew what went on. He knew the processes themselves, and he knew the great names of the time, those who developed the knowledge that produced the terrors of the bomb and the human horrors of our age -- the Oppenheimers, the Edward Tellers, and many others. ~ DR


The Crash of TWA Flight 260, by Charles M. Williams. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010, pbk., 250pp.

At 7:O5 a. m. on the morning of February 19, 1955, Trans World Airlines flight # 260 departed Albuquerque airport. She carried thirteen passengers and her normal crew of three: Captain Ivan Spong, First Officer Jesse J. Creason, and Flight Hostess Sharon Schoening. The aircraft was a Martin 404 "Skyliner," a popular twin engine, nose wheel type of her day, a smaller partner to the Lockheed Constellation, the famous "Connie," the big four engine airliner. Flight # 260 had begun in San Francisco the day before, with a stop in Las Vegas, and an overnight with a crew change in Albuquerque.

Her flight plan would take her to Santa Fe and eventually to Baltimore, where she would turn about to retrace her way to San Francisco. The flight was regularly scheduled, the aircraft proven, the captain had flown thousands of hours. The weather this morning though was unusually thick. Heavy clouds with rain and snow blocked the sky toward the north. High winds buffeted the surface. The lower foothills to the east were visible, but the Sandia Mountains were not.

Tower sent # 260 off on runway one one toward the southeast. After lift off, she was to bank around to a northwesterly heading at 9,000 feet until she cleared the north end of the Sandia Mountains. Maintaining that altitude, she was to turn northeasterly into Santa Fe for landing. Flight altitude was considerably lower than the high ridge of the Sandia Mountains. Since visibility would be zero, the flight had to be IFR, on instruments. The pilots could see little or nothing out the windscreens.

At least two people last saw # 260 airborne. Three minutes after takeoff, airport Ground Service Help saw her flying east a half mile north of the airport. Seconds later, an Air Force colonel, who happened to be standing out in front of his house, saw her a mile and a half northeast of the airport. He remembered noting at the time that if she was eastbound, she was too low to clear the Sandias, and if northbound, she had to be off course.

At just seconds after 7:12 a. m., Tower called # 260 to confirm her position in order to clear another flight for takeoff. Tower called repeatedly, "TWA 260. ABQ Approach Control. Over!" Pause. "TWA 260. ABQ Approach Control. Over!" There was no answer. By then, just seven minutes and a few seconds after takeoff, the pilots had banked their Skyliner hard left and raised her nose to drive her head on into a craggy pinnacle of the Sandia Mountains. Minutes later she was reported overdue at Santa Fe.

Immediately began a monumental search followed by years of investigations. Fifty-five years later, the persistence of a handful of doubters would finally answer the questions and would produce this unusual book, a full-scale study of the many, many facets of a modern airline disaster. At first, the CAB report had it all wrong. Pilots Spong and Creason were even accused by some of purposely committing suicide and taking their passengers with them. But the long time commitment of a fellow TWA captain, Larry DeCelles, and of the author of this book, among others, finally cleared the crew of fault; and the crash was at last charged to a known design problem in essential equipment aboard this aircraft and others of her time.

Frightening? Yes. If you're a pilot, or if you enjoy flying, read this book to see for yourself. It's an experience you won't want to miss. ~ DR


Arena Legacy: The Heritage of American Rodeo, by Richard C. Rattenbury. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010, 416 pp, 620 color and b/w plates, $ 65.

This is the most impressive book ever published on rodeo, the West’s contribution to sporting contests worldwide! Drawing on the vast collections of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Arena Legacy traces the history of the sport from its beginnings in Spanish, Mexican, and California cow culture to the National Finals contest, the World’s Series of rodeo.

The major feature of the book is its brilliant array of photos. Opening with snapshots of cowboy Clay Wilkes on a wild-eyed steer; and cowgirls Bessie and Ruby Dickey at a rodeo in Tucumcari about 1918, the photographic display continues with plates of contestants, their equipment, and the trophies they won over the span of a hundred years: saddles, spurs, chaps, boots, ropes, buckles, trophy cups, and Stetson hats of the cowboys and cowgirls. The huge ten and twelve-inch book weighs four pounds!

Renowned New Mexico champions are here: Charmayne James, all-time winning female athlete, appears on her special horse, Scamper. Ropers Troy Fort and Bob Crosby on his horse Nickel; Homer Pettigrew, maybe the top steer wrestler of all time; Everett Bowman, world all-around Champ and president of the first Cowboys’ Union; and three Coopers --- Tuffy, Roy, and Jimmie.

Whether you rodeo yourself, or just love to watch the action from the bleachers, get this book. For cow people, there’s nothing like it! You’ll be glad you did, and your kids and grandkids will thank you.

Order OU Press Books by calling 1-800-627-7377
Or online from ~ www.oupress.com


From Cochise to Geronimo: The Chiricahua Apaches, 1874-1886, by Edwin R. Sweeney. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010, cloth, 706 pp, $39.95

This new book answers vital questions about the late 19th century Chiricahua Apaches in southern New Mexico, Eastern Arizona, and West Texas. It is the third, and last, of a trilogy by Edwin R. Sweeney, the great student of the Chiricahua people and the author of Cochise (1991) and Mangas Coloradas (1998).

Sweeney argues convincingly that Office of Indian Affairs stupidity and bungling caused the Chiricahuas' increasing hostility toward settlers, miners and soldiers after 1874. Having settled them on two reservations in their homelands --- Ojo Caliente in eastern New Mexico and Chiricahua in southeastern Arizona --- Indian Affairs, for the sake of "efficiency" decided to settle ALL the People on the hated San Carlos Reservations between Fort Thomas and Globe, Arizona. First, this move forced them out of their mountainous homelands. Second, it settled bands that were traditional enemies, side by side. Third, it put hundreds of them on the Gila Flats --- the Gila River flows across the southern San Carlos Reservation --- where they died from mosquito-borne malaria, unknown in their beloved high country.

And fourth, corrupt Indian Affairs agents and inspectors spent more time prospecting for precious metals than looking out for their charges. After the move to San Carlos, Apaches literally fought in order to die until Geronimo finally surrendered them. Later, the People were "removed" to prisons in the East. Perhaps the greatest value of this book though, is the new information it offers from Sweeney's remarkably extensive research in Mexican and American archives, some only recently opened to historians.

OU Press has just released this essential book. Interested in the Apache story? Buy a copy while you can get a first edition, first printing. Enjoy reading it as you watch its dollar value grow.

 



   


 

 
         
 

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