The dime novel and dude ranch, the barbecue and rodeo, the suburban ranch house and the urban cowboy -- all are a direct legacy of nineteenth-century cowboy life that still enlivens American popular culture. Yet at the same time, reports of environmental destruction or economic inefficiency have motivated calls for restricted livestock grazing on public lands or even for an end to ranching altogether. In Let the Cowboy Ride, Starrs offers a detailed and comprehensive look at one of America's most enduring institutions. Richly illustrated with more than 130 photographs and maps, the book combines the authentic detail of an insider's view (Starrs spent six years working cattle on the high desert Great Basin range) with a scholar's keen eye for objective analysis.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"The title of this book is a bit deceptive as it is really about ranching and the American West, and as Starrs notes, a "cowboy is not a rancher." But they share legends that permeate American history, popular culture and environmentbuilt and otherwise. Starrs's book describes the legacy of this way of life, the fragmented and irrational laws governing the use of public lands and the resulting ecological problems. Starrs explores five regions in detail and tells of the differences and similarities between them. He looks at the history of Native American and Hispanic attitudes toward the land, attitudes that were generally more communal and protective. These attitudes receded before the Anglo ranchers' combination of mistrust and fierce defense of the right to exploit public lands. Anglo Americans identify the wide-open spaces of the West as an integral part of our identity, yet the some 600 acres required to graze one head of cattle in these arid lands has become just too much to sacrifice for one rancher's personal gains. Grazing fees are now routinely charged so that there is some equity in the use of public lands. But Starrs argues that profits are not the real motive of today's ranchers anyway; rather, the honor, tradition and lifestyle far outweigh any real money to be made. Starrs's book is copious with detail and information and well-researched. If it reads somewhat like a textbook, the story is so fascinating and such a part of us all that the reader is quickly drawn in. Starrs adds rational and careful thought to an often incendiary debate. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved