In The Canadian Cowboy: Stories of Cows, Cowboys, and Cayuses, Andy Russell takes us on a winding trail through the history, legend, and lore of western life on this continent.
Starting with the ranches of Old Mexico, we follow through time first the Spanish vaqueros (whose language, rigging, and dress provided the roots of cowboy lingo and gear), then the American cowpunchers, who drove thousands of head of cattle across Texas and the plains of the southwest, on to the eastern railheads. In time their ranches spread west and north and eventually came over the line into western Canada.
The author dedicates his book to "all the old cowboys," and the adventures of such legendary figures as stock detective Jack Reid, outfitter Bert Riggall, bronco-buster John Ware, and entrepreneur Pat Burns fill these pages. We also meet lesser known but equally colourful characters such as Happy Jack Jackson, Henry "Frenchy" Riviere, and "Barbwire" John Spears. And, as he outlines the history of the cowboy, the cow, and the cayuse in this country, Andy Russell has stories of his own family to tell too.
Along the way we learn about everything from the origin of the word "maverick," to methods of branding, how to rope and throw a longhorn (a method Andy applied with dramatic results in his boyhood), the invention of barbed wire, which changed the shape of the West, the disappearance and later conservation of the buffalo, the evolution of the rodeo, why cayuses are superior to camels, the diet on a trail drive ("thousands of things - all of 'em beans"), and how the real world of the cowboy differs from the popularized Hollywood version.
Andy Russell, himself a long-time cowboy and a student of western history, brings to his topic both the richly lived experience of "Canada's best-known mountain man" and the storytelling talent that has won him over five hundred thousand readers worldwide. The Canadian Cowboy is a must for history lovers, enthusiasts of things western, and everyone who loves an entertaining story.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Andy Russell was born in 1915 into a pioneer Alberta family — his father was the first white baby born in what is now Lethbridge — Andy left high school in the Depression to become a trapper, cowboy, bronco buster, and trail guide. In time his guiding expeditions in the Rockies led to campfire yarns that found their way into magazines, and a new career as a writer and film-maker soon beckoned.
Over the years he became the best-known of all the writers about the Rockies and the wildlife to be found there. His book titles speak for themselves. In order he wrote Grizzly Country; Horns in the High Country; The Rockies; The High West; Memoirs of a Mountain Man; Andy Russell’s Adventures With Wild Animals; The Life of a River; The Canadian Cowboy; Andy Russell’s Campfire Stories; and finally Wild Country, edited by his friend Bruce Morrison, which was published in 2004.
Always an outspoken public figure, famous for his battles with the oil and gas industry, in 1976 he received the Order of Canada. An early conservationist, he began to film wildlife in the Rockies when he tired of guiding trophy — seeking hunters, and switched to trophies on film. He produced Grizzly Country and two other films for international lecture tours; he would introduce them on stage in his everyday Western gear, which he used to great effect. His films and his books — especially The Life of A River, a plea to stop the Oldman River Dam — had a major impact on our understanding of the fragile environment of the Rockies, foothills and prairies.
Andy Russell, author, outdoorsman and conservationist, passed away in Pincher Creek, Alberta, on June 1st at the age of 89.
From the Hardcover edition.
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