Along the Chisholm Trail Index

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Suggested reading list

After receiving numerous queries from readers about where they could get copies of these books, I have teamed up with Amazon.com to offer direct links for easy purchase. Every book you buy through this site will help keep Along the Chisholm Trail online.

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Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest
by Joseph G. McCoy, edited by Ralph P. Bieber

(No photo available) Seven years after his business transformed the sleepy Kansas village of Abilene into a bustling, booming city, McCoy wrote this eyewitness account of the great cattle drives. It's biased in his favor, of course, and is a little lacking in credit for others also responsible for the transformation of cattle trailing into a major industry, but all-in-all it offers a fascinating look at the times and the people. Skilled editing and footnotes help round out the story and offer context and understanding where McCoy was unable to provide it.

The Trail Drivers of Texas: Interesting Sketches of Early Cowboys and Their Experiences on the Range and on the Trail During the Days That Tried Men
edited by J. Marvin Hunter

This hefty, 1,000-plus page book is a mixture of vanity pieces and truly valuable memoirs from men who actually rode the Chisholm Trail or other cattle trails in the late 1800s. Hunter collected reminiscences from members of the Old Time Trail Drivers Association, headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, and compiled them in this book. It's rough in places, and fascinating reading in others as these cowboys and cattlemen tell tales of their lives.

The Log of a Cowboy: A Narrative of the Old Trail Days
by Andy Adams

This book has long been considered the best and most reliable account of real cowboy life ever written. In the years following the Civil War, 16-year-old Andy Adams left his home in the San Antonio Valley and took to the range. Here he charts his first journey as a bona fide cowboy, from south Texas to Montana along the western trail.

The Chisholm Trail
by Wayne Gard

Gard's book is a well-researched history of the trail itself, and the men who drove the cattle north along it. He includes numerous anecdotes and even adds lines from songs sung by the cowboys as they soothed the cattle at night.

Cowboy Culture: A Saga of Five Centuries
by David Dary

Dary traces the culture of the cowboy from 1494, when the first Spanish cattle set hoof in the New World, to today, when a lot of people like to pretend they are cowboys but aren't. This is a fascinating history of the American cowboy of fact and fiction.

Trail Dust and Saddle Leather
by Jo Mora

(No photo available) If you're hungering for more after reading Adams' The Log of a Cowboy (above), this is another book to devour. Mora, who was a cowboy for more than 50 years, wanted to clear up a few misconceptions about the cowboy that the popular media kept spreading, and his book goes a long way to show the reality of cowboy life.

The Cowman's Southwest: Reminiscences of Oliver Nelson, Freighter, Camp Cook, Cowboy, Frontiersman in Kansas, Indian Territory, Texas and Oklahoma
by Oliver Nelson

(No photo available) Nelson rode the Chisholm Trail in 1880, just before barbed wire shut it down. He also had numerous other adventures as a cowboy and cook, and tells all about them in this delightful memoir of the Old West as told to Angie Debo.

Jesse Chisholm: Trail Blazer, Sam Houston's Trouble-Shooter Friend, Kin to the Cherokee
by Ralph B. Cushman

(No photo available) This is a thoroughly researched story of Jesse Chisholm's life. While it tends to lean toward hero-worship, I have yet to find another book to rival this one for detail about the man.

We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a Cow Puncher
by E.C. Abbott

This is a memoir of the early years of a cowboy who grew up in Nebraska and drove cattle along the western trails, settling in Montana, where he worked for several cattle owners, during the 1870s and 1880s. His story covers that brief period of time when the West was open range, before settlers began putting up fences.

Cowboy Lingo
by Ramon F. Adams

According to Ramon Adams, cowboys, once among themselves, enjoyed a vivid, often boisterous repartee. You might say that around a campfire they could make more noise than "a jackass in a tin barn." This book is organized situationally, with sections on the ranch, the cowboy's duties, riding equipment, the roundup, roping, branding, even square dancing.

The Cowboy Dictionary: The Chin Jaw Words and Whing-Ding Ways of the American West
by Ramon F. Adams

(No photo available) This is another reference book of cowboy sayings. It's gotta be good: Just look at the title!

Come An' Get It: The Story of the Old Cowboy Cook
by Ramon F. Adams

Ramon Adams describes the role of the chuck wagon cook on the cattle drives and roundups, and provides a detailed description of the chuck wagon itself, how it's constructed and its contents organized, and how it's cleaned and maintained.

Once in the Saddle: The Cowboy's Frontier, 1866-1896
by Laurence Ivan Seidman

(No photo available) Seidman's book is part of an Alfred A. Knopf effort called The Living History Library, intended to present history in such a way that it could hold the interest of high school and college students. It is sort of an outline of the history of the cowboy and the trails he followed, including the words and music to the popular songs of the time, as well as photos and other illustrations. At nearly 150 pages, it is light reading and a good introduction for those unwilling or in too great a hurry to dig into the thicker books.

The Cowboy at Work: All About His Job and How He Does It
by Fay E. Ward

(No photo available) This book offers wisdom and insight from men who rode for a living, day in and day out, on green mounts in rough country. It includes sections on handling a herd, packing, campfire cooking, leather work, saddles, tack, early rodeo, and a few long-forgotten loops for those of you who think you know how to throw a rope.

The Cowboy: An Unconventional History of Civilization on the Old-Time Cattle Range
by Philip Ashton Rollins

Princeton-educated historian Philip Ashton Rollins grew up in the West and knew early cowboys firsthand. In the book's 18 chapters, he covers such topics as cowboy character, what the cowboy wore, equipment and furnishings, diversions and recreations, the day's work, branding and round-up.

Wild, Wooly & Wicked: The History of the Kansas Cow Towns and the Texas Cattle Trade
by Harry Sinclair Drago

(No photo available) This is an older book that popularizes the history of the cattle towns in Kansas, while at the same time it seeks to dispell a number of incorrect stories told by other historians and figures of the day (such as Wyatt Earp and/or his biographer). Drago's book is easy to read, heavy in places with opinion and supposition, and light at other times in facts, yet still worth reading.

Victorian West: Class and Culture in Kansas Cattle Towns
by C. Robert Haywood

This book tells of the two cultures that existed simultaneously in Kansas cattle towns. Alongside the Wild West culture of the cattle trailing industry there existed a highly developed Victorian society, complete with civic activists, churches, boosterism, small-town politics, and Victorian architecture to rival that of the east coast.

The Cattle Towns
by Robert R. Dykstra

Dykstra describes the cattle town experience in five communities in Kansas -- Wichita, Abilene, Ellsworth, Dodge City and Caldwell. Easy to read, yet packed with valuable detail. If you live in Kansas, you don't want to miss this one!

Wichita: The Early Years
by H. Craig Miner

(No photo available) Miner takes the reader a greater depth into the history of Wichita, Kansas, than Dykstra does in his book, but then Miner is concentrating on just one cattle town. This is an excellent book that has information not found in the others mentioned here.

The Fighting Marlows: Men Who Wouldn't Be Lynched
by Glenn Shirley

(No photo available) Although the names of the Marlow brothers are familiar only to historians of the West and residents of the town in Oklahoma named after their family, the general public may be aware of the John Wayne movie "The Sons of Katie Elder," which was loosely based on the brothers' lives. Shirley has researched court records to provide a factual account that is more fascinating than anything fictional. In 1888, the Marlows were charged with cattle rustling and murder, were tried by public opinion, and had to fight against mob justice.

Charles Goodnight, Cowman and Plainsman
by J. Evetts Haley

This book is not only about Charles Goodnight, but it is an excellent source on the history of the Texas Panhandle, especially the settlement of the Palo Duro Canyon south of Amarillo. Goodnight, by the way, is known as the originator of the chuck wagon.

Trail Boss's Cowboy Cookbook
by Kovach

This book includes 458 recipes of rangeland dishes in 31 categories, including hors d'oeuvres, sauces and condiments, casseroles, game, Mexican dishes, breads, cakes and pies, and, of course, meat and poultry. If you want the authentic taste of the old trail without having to set up your own chuck wagon, Trail Boss's Cowboy Cookbook brings cowboy cooking to your own kitchen.

The Cowboy Way: An Exploration of History and Culture
by Paul H. Carlson

This book offers 16 essays dealing with cowboy culture, each well written and thoroughly researched. Carlson is a professor of history at Texas Tech University.

Cowboy: How Hollywood Invented the Wild West, Featuring the Real West, Campfire Melodies, Matinee Idols, Four Legged Friends, Cowgirls & Lone Guns
by Holly George-Warren

Packed with archival photographs and vintage art, meticulously researched and powerfully written, this book exposes the made-in-Hollywood American cowboy legend for the myth that it is, and celebrates the genuine frontier pioneers.

Cowboy: The Legend and the Legacy
by B.A. Payton, Gary Fiegehen and Jim Skipp

This book tells the story of the American cowboy, along with a look at how popular culture both created and reflected his "wild West" lifestyle. From the corral to the range and into the dance hall, this absorbing chronicle contrasts the wrangler's world in its golden age with the mythological character of books and film.

The Cowboy Hero: His Image in American History and Culture
by William Savage Jr.

(No photo available) I took a course taught on western history by Professor Savage while attending the University of Oklahoma, and I can strongly recommend his book as an insightful study of the cowboy in American popular culture.

The Cowboy Hero and Its Audience: Popular Culture As Market Derived Art
by Alf H. Walle

The book combines popular culture scholarship with marketing theory to provide a hybrid analysis, examining major authors and genres of Western American literature and film, and exploring why some authors were unable to impact the cowboy story even though their innovations were embraced by later generations.

The Old Chisholm Trail: A Cowboy Song
by Rosalyn Schanzer

This interpretation of the classic American folk song gives children a realistic look at life in the old West. Using the words of the song as text, the book charts the adventures of a few cowhands and a lot of cattle as they make their way up the Old Chisholm Trail from Texas to Kansas. The illustrations will keep readers laughing as they see the cowpokes deal with dust, flies, bad food, hail, stampedes and outlaws. The music is included at the end of the book.

Songs of the Cowboy
compiled by Ron Middlebrook

This book celebrates the romance attached to the cowboy and his free-roaming life style. By combining classic cowboy songs, trivia, photos, articles and diagrams with current cowboy songwriters' songs, this book pays special tribute to our Western musical heritage.

The Cowboy Boot: History, Art, Culture, Function (Cowboy Gear Series)
by David R. Stoecklein

Photographer David R. Stoecklein brings into focus important elements of cowboy gear in his series of three photo books, featuring spurs from all across the West, handcrafted belt buckles and, in this particular volume, weathered cowboy boots.

Cowboys and Cattleland: Memories of a Frontier Cowboy
by Harry H. Halsell

(No photo available) Although I am not familiar with this book, I felt it should be mentioned. As the title suggests, it is another memoir written by a cowboy of the Old West.

The Cowboy's Trail Guide to Westerns
by David F. Matuszak

Amazon informs me that this title usually ships within 1 to 2 months. Please note that special order titles occasionally go out of print, or publishers run out of stock. These hard-to-find titles are not discounted and are subject to an additional charge of $1.99 per book due to the extra cost of ordering them.

The Chisholm Trail: High Road of the Cattle Kingdom
by Don Worcester

(No photo available) Worcester offers a popularized history of the Chisholm Trail, telling tales of men who rode it and the towns that catered to their needs. Lots of photos.

The Texas Longhorn: Relic of the Past, Asset for the Future
by Don Worcester

Worcester's book is a short (fewer than 100 pages) history of the longhorn, concluding with an upbeat take on the breed's status today.

The Chisholm Trail
by Ralph Compton
Fiction

Armed with only a Colt rifle, a Bowie knife, and courage as big as the West, Ted Chisholm, the bold, half-breed son of Indian scout Jesse Chisholm, flees New Orleans with a price on his head. With a team of battle-toughened cowboys and ex-soldiers, he rides into the harsh Texas landscape and the heart of Comanche country to round up wild longhorns and then set off across the Red River, through a thousand miles of swollen rivers, angry Comanches and treacherous outlaw attacks, on a brazen quest to open a new trail to Kansas.

Under a Long Sky: Women Drovers on the Chisholm Trail
by Jack Jones
Fiction

In the spring of 1870, Jefferson Pickett leaves south Texas with a herd of 2500 longhorns, moving north over the Chisholm Trail for Abilene, Kansas, accompanied by a boy and 13 women. This is the story of their struggles, hardships, and heartbreaks doing the impossible under a long sky.






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A tip of the ol' Stetson: Some of the book descriptions on this page are adapted from reviewers' works at Amazon.com. Also, if a book doesn't show up in its little Web window, try hitting "refresh" on your browser and see if that fixes the problem. If it still doesn't work, Pardner, and you're interested in the book, just enter the title in the Amazon.com search box above and it should take you there. Happy trails!