The Pastures of Beyond

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

At age thirteen Dayton O. Hyde ran away from his Michigan home and hopped a freight train to his uncle's huge cattle ranch in Oregon There he spent the remainder of his life working as a “real” cowboy. Although Hyde's interesting, well-told stories in The Pastures of Beyond: An Old Cowboy Looks Back at the Old West may seem remote, cowboys still worked as he describes “a mere fifty years ago,” in many cases even more recently. The rodeos, the stock drives, and the lonely life in the saddle still existed when the first space ship was launched in the 1950's.

Although Hyde's stories may seem to romanticize the West—cattle drives in blinding blizzards, rodeos with killer broncos and fierce bulls—they actually lay bare the extreme hardships western men and women faced daily. “Real” Westerners, including the Native Americans with whom the whites interacted regularly, lived lives today's readers can barely imagine. Cowboys really were “rolling stones,” following the work and carrying only a few possessions rolled up in their blankets lashed behind the saddle. These sometimes amusing accounts of life lived close to the bone with few if any modern conveniences or tools force readers to recognize how much has changed—and how much has been lost—in such a short time.

The Pastures of Beyond is an account of Hyde's life. But, more importantly, it grieves a lost time, way of life, and even features of the landscape, erased in part with the destruction of independent family farms and the growth of industries such as wholesale timber cutting, changes that make it virtually impossible for anyone to survive on the land as Hyde and his uncle did.

This memoir's most compelling stories are those that show Hyde working close to the land, experiencing the violence of nature and of rodeos, and that illustrate the true “romance” between a cowboy, his horse, and the cattle they depend on for their livelihood.