The Athenaeum (essay date 1903)
SOURCE: A review of The Log of a Cowboy in The Athenaeum, No. 3972, December 12, 1903, p. 790.
[In the following review, the critic praises The Log of a Cowboy for its realism.]
[The Log of a Cowboy] bears about it all the marks of being what is called a document—a record of actual experience, rather than a work of imagination. A good deal of work of this sort has recently been published in the form associated with fiction, and is welcomed, one fancies, as a relief from the broad stream of ineffective, mediocre stuff which appears under that name. The Log of a Cowboy tells the story day by day of a trip with cattle, several thousand strong, from Texas, through Arkansas and Wyoming, to the Blackfoot Agency in Montana in the year 1882. The long journey was full of adventure, which is set forth in crisp, straightforward style, and forms very interesting reading. But the book is more than interesting and amusing; it is a compact and truthful picture of an important phase of American life, which can no longer be watched, for the reason that all the essential conditions have changed during the last twenty years. The reviewer has known many cowboys of the period dealt with in this book, and can vouch for the fidelity of their presentation here. The book is not burdened—as is nearly all the fiction of the Far West—with exaggerated accounts of cowboys' dissipation. We get incidental glimpses of this incidental feature of their lives, but are mainly concerned with the strenuous workaday life of the saddle and the camp, of sudden difficulties ably surmounted, of swift dangers bravely and coolly overcome. There are some amusing camp-fire stories. The chapter called 'The Republican' is the best account of a prairie racing swindle that has been published for some time, and there is hardly a chapter in the book which does not contain at least one good story.