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Rope Burns » Book Reviews pre 4-14-2018

Book Reviews pre 4-14-2018


Remington 1894 by William W. Johnstone & A.J. Johnstone

kisken-book-remingtonWilliam W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone have written a new western, Remington 1894. The book is published by Pinnacle Press, a subsidiary of Kensington Publishing Corp, and was released the end of 2017. William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone have written may westerns and all are available from Pinnacle Books. The main character in the book is John McMasters, a medal of honor winner in the Civil War, who settles fin Arizona after the war and raises horses. His family is murdered by a band of outlaws and he sets out with the damnest posse I have read about to capture the thugs. The book surprises one until the very last page.. That is all I will write about the plot. Remember, I will not write a review if (1) I don’t like the book or (2) I don’t understand it. I have three comments which will not give away the plot. (1) characters in this book are quite a crew and they keep the reader guessing as to what they will do next (2) flashbacks that McMcasters has to his service in the Civil War gave me a lot to think about. (3) I have been in the area the book is written about, even Monroe Michigan, but I wish more authors would include maps. Anyhow, a good read for people who like westerns.

……..Bob Kisken


Wild Horse Rider by Rick Steber

kisken-book-wild horse riderIn 1912, Lew Minor won the World’s Bucking Horse Championship on the horse, Angel, at Pendleton, Oregon. He rode for two minutes and 23 seconds. Quite a difference between that time and 8 seconds. Rick Steber, in his biography of Lew, traces his life from his birth in Washington state, in 1884, to his death in 1978. Wild Horse Rider is a great read. Rick covers Lew’s youth in Washington, his time breaking horses (40 a day) for the Double Square Ranch in Nevada, Lew’s time, as the featured attraction for the Kit Carson Wild West Show, his rodeo career, and lastly, his life on his ranch. In 1977, Lew is inducted into the Pendleton Rodeo Hall of Fame, 65 years after his ride on Angel. Were it not for the book Mr. Minor would probably be unknown to most. Rick is one heck of a writer The book is based upon interviews he had with Lew over a seven year period. When reading his descriptions of the rodeo rides, I can almost hear the roar of the crowd and see the dust thrown up by the bucking horse. His description of Mr. Minor’s last years is most moving. If you are a rodeo fan or rodeo history fan, you will not be disappointed. If you get and read this amazing story. Photos are great also.

……..Bob Kisken


Cap Guns & Stick Ponies by Geoff “Poppa Mac” Mackay

kisken-book-cap gunsGeoff Mackay, known as “Poppa Mac”, was born in Manitoba and grew up in Western Canada. He is, or has been, a rodeo clown, cowboy, wrangler, cowboy preacher, poet, storyteller and has entertained in both the US and Canada. His poems and tales come from his experience and he claims they are 100 per cent true, except for the things he makes up. My kind of guy. He has written a children’s book of poems, titled Cap Guns and Stick Ponies, even though, for children, I am sure many adults who like to look back, will get a kick out of it, too. Some of the subjects of the poems are; barrel racing, cap guns, stick ponies, bulls, pony racers, cowdogs and the list goes on. Here are some of the lines form poems I like, remember that I am a very old child.


Steve’s New Hat

…Now Steve feels like a cowboy

When he wears his resistol hat

Next he’ll need some real boots

Will take another birthday for that

Bullet, the Mini Donkey

…Then Steve tried to get him to fetch

But it didn’t go quite as planned

As he would throw the ball

Bullet did nothing but stand

Cap Guns & Stick Ponies

..Sun was beginning to set

And time to end his ride

He turned his steed south

Lengthenin’ his stride

…Mom was there waiting

At the end of the driveway

Little buckaroo was tired

Been workin’ all day

…His belly was now full

He kicked off his boots

Hearin’ its bath time

Shook him to his roots

…All clean and now tired

Rolled out his bedroll

 Gathering them doggies

Sure took a tole

…Falls asleep smilin’

As a New adventure begins

One where the bad guy loses

And the buckaroo wins.

The book was published by Red Dashboard, LLC Publishing. For more, go to

……..Bob Kisken



A Cowgirl And Her Horse by Jean Ekman Adams

kisken-book-cowgirl and horseJean Ekman Adams has written and illustrated a book for 5-9 year olds entitled A Cowgirl and her Horse. The book explains, in prose and illustrations, what a young cowgirl would need to do when she gets a horse, The author has a sense of humor, which is most appealing. I can imagine a child’s squeals of delight when he/she comes to the part where the horse writes a letter to his mother. Lots of fun in this book. The illustrations, which are southwest based, are most delightful, purple cacti, and a horse in a chair getting fitted for shoes, climbing trails, etc., Young children need whimsey and imagination. This book gives it to them. The book is printed by Rio Chico which specializes in children’s books. It is part of Rio Nuevo Press, located in Tucson, AZ. Look them up.

……..Bob Kisken


No Justice In Hell by Charles G. West

kisken-book-no justiceKensington Publishing Co., is an independent book publishing company, located in NYC. Were I to list all their categories, I would not have room for this review. Google Them. Kensington was kind enough to send me some of their westerns to review. The book, No Justice In Hell was written by Charles G. West. It is book two in the John Hawk Western series. It is to go on sale, April 24, 2018. If what I read is indicative of what’s ahead, it’s going to be a great series. Hawk is a scout for the army at Fort Ellis, located near Bozeman, MT. The book starts out with Hawk trying to convince a band of friendly (to him) Blackfeet Indians to go to a reservation. On the way back to the Fort, he helps three women trying to escape a violent man, attempted robbery of a payroll to a mine in Butte and tracking down bad guys, make up the rest of the book. No more details about the plot. Get the book and read it for yourself. Why do I like the book (1) tells a good story which flows and is not contrived (2) has a main character subject to make mistakes (3) as I read I like to predict what will happen next. This author puts some twists and turns which were certainly unexpected. (4) takes place in my favorite state, Montana (5) the book has given me some ideas I would like to investigate about early life in Montana. Buy it, read it, enjoy.

……..Bob Kisken


Dead And Buried By Tim Bryant

book-kisken-dead and buriedOn May 29, Keningston Publishing will release the western, Dead And Buried by Tim Bryant. It is a Wilkie John Western.After reading the first two chapters, I said to myself, “Wow, I wonder where this is going?” I kept saying this throughout the book. It is a great mystery and kept me guessing right up to the end. The author takes a strange group of characters and weaves a great tale. (1) Wilkie John Liauorish, a five foot 1 inch Texas Ranger (2) Gentleman Jack, close to seven feet, former slave, now a Texas bounty hunter. (3) a woman and her young son coming back from New Orleans, who are killed in what is suspected to be a train robbery. Is the book worth getting, sure is, I had a hard time putting it down, even after finishing I still wonder if ….? Read it and find out for yourself.

……..Bob Kisken





Home On The Range by Buck Taylor, Rance Howard and Mark Manette

kisken-book-home on rangeLone Chimney Films is an independent film maker, located in Wichita, Kansas. At present, it is working on its 4th documentary film about the history of Kansas (google Lone Chimney films). The movie Home On The Range is about the writing of the song by Dr. Brewster M Higley of Smith County, Kansas in 1872. What a great idea to produce a film about this well known song. Lone Chimney Films has released a CD with the film’s music for sale. Songs such as Home on the Range, many versions by different artists, Zebra Dunn, Western Home, When The Work is Done This Fall. Music I can imagine sitting around a campfire and listening to. Artists which readers of Rope Burns are family with Michael Martin Murphey, Barry Ward, Sons of the Pioneers, Diamond W Wranglers, Rex Allen, Jr. and many more. I cannot wait until one can buy the movie. I want to see how the movie fits the music. I”ll keep you posted..

……..Bob Kisken

Ghost Cow Trail by Doc Hudson

The Angel of Medicine Bow by Robert Lewis Penven

kisken-book angel of medicineRed Dashboard Publishing has a series of written stories which theykisken-book-ghost cow trail call the Dime Novel Stores. Patterned after the dime novels of the 40s and 50s, they are a welcomed addition to western writing. I just finished two of them and their endings remind me of O’Henry, whom I read as a kid. The first was Ghost Cowboy Trail by Doc Hudson and is about Kip Wilson’s last day on the Lazy S Ranch. The other is The Angel of Medicine Bow by Robert Lewis Penven. This concerns a cowboy Bart Danaker working for the Triangle B, working by himself, going out to feed cattle when a snowstorm comes up. Want a good story with a deeper meaning, read them. Great concept by Red Dashboard, keep at it

……..Bob Kisken


book-kisken-ben craneI had never heard of Ben Crane ( until a month ago when I googled Cowboy Cartoonist and read his bio. Born and raised on the plains of Alberta, he is a cowboy, singer, performers in both the US and Canada. Cowboy Cartoonist, founding member of CCI, book illustrator and CD producer. He was kind enough to send me some of his work to review for Rope Burns. I will split them into 3 parts (1) his book of cartoons (2) two of his music CDs which he produced and mostly wrote (3) children’s books he has illustrated. Ben Crane is one heck of a cowboy cartoonist, His book Spur of the Moment, the Western Cartoons Art of Ben Crane will keep you in stitches. Look at the front cover. If Ben experiencedbook-kisken-crane hard times most of what he draws, he must be one heck of a cowboy. Look at the cow on the left side of the front page. Find the portrait of Ben by Mike Scovel in the book. See the resemblance? The colors, characters, captions are fantastic. You have to see them for yourself. The first cartoon which he did at age 17 is in the book. Some of his cartoons are in the booklet that comes with his CD, Off My Rocker. Get the book, sit down and laugh and laugh and laugh. The two CDs I have are Off My Rocker and Hard times. I like corn; first song in the Off My Rocker is “I’m the sap in the family tree” and I knew I was home. 14 songs of toe tapping music to dance to (I haven’t danced in over 50 years, or music to sit around a table and have a beer or two. How many people write a song about a cow with her tongue up her nose. This CD has one, nuff said. Before I listened to Hard Times, I thought it was a lament on how hard life can be. It turned out to be an interesting view on hard times, not sure I could do it. One of the lines I really like is “but still think the good times outweigh the bad”. Ten songs worth listening to and thinking about. Wish I had met up with Ben sooner. Victor Leithbridge wrote and Ben Crane illustratedbook-kisken-off my rocker-crane 3 books I received. Published by Tatanka Publications, they are written for young kids. The first book You’re Just Right is a short book which is one way of telling a child what she or he needs to hear every once in a while. The second book is Little Chief and the Gift of Morning Star. This is the story of Little Chief and Stinging Feather and the adventure they had while on their horses. There is a CD with the book which tells the story in four languages and English, Cre, Blackfoot and Lakota Sioux. This is an interesting book to start a young persons introduction to the fact that there are different peoples, cultures and languages out there. The third book is Little Chief and Mighty Gopher. This is a funny story with an important lesson, the balance of nature. Were I a kid being read this book by a parent, I would hopefully notice one of two things (1) These kids look like me or (2) these kids don’t look like me. Important for readers. Ben is one heck of an artist his illustrations are a delight. I can’t praise his music, art and cartoons enough. Jump in anywhere you will not be disappointed.


……..Bob Kisken


A Wrap And A Hooey by Smokey Culver

kisken-book-wrap hooeyIn the early 1950s, a group of us rented horses and went horseback riding. If I remember correctly, I got on the horse OK, but had trouble starting and steering the creature. I am not a cowboy. Since moving out west, I have covered rodeos, brandings and cowboy poetry and music events. Fortunately, I know how to use a camera. Red Dashboard Publishing has published A Wrap And A Hooey written by Smokey Culver. Smokey, who lives in Texas, has cowboyed, written cowboy poetry and, when read his poetry, I realize he is good observer of the cowboys he lives and works around. He has written a short book of 30 poems which mainly deal with cowboys, their surroundings and rodeos. Given my interest, it was a good read. Subjects such as bulls, horses, rodeo clowns, riding, shotgun in a truck, cowboy hats, cowboy pride, old dogs and horses, and more are written in a way which keeps the reader’s attention.

     What makes a man a cowboy, you may wonder; I suppose

I’m going to give you my opinion now;

a man can really only be a cowboy if he has

a genuine connection to a cow…

Those Gals Who Ride The Bulls

     And when the ride is over, should she win or lose or draw,

she knows she did the best that she could do;

She’ll dust her britches off, and look up at the crowd and smile,

and say a prayer of thanks; she made it through

     So when you see a lady wearin’ cowboy boots and jeans,

a silver buckle at the rodeo,

It may not all be just for show; she may be like my friend,

a gal who rises the bad ones; you never know…

I’ A Bull

     Now don’t get me wrong, ‘cause I ain’t complainin’,

8 seconds is not a long day;

And I’d rather be buckin’ in rodeos than

just grazin’ and eatin’ stale hay.

Just a few examples of what I like. The book is worth getting and reading

……..Bob Kisken


Hi Lo Country, Under The One-Eyed Sky By Max Evans

kisken-hi lo bookIn 2014, Max Evan’s Hi Lo Country was published by University of New Mexico Press. Fortunately, the book is still in print. With text by Mr. Evans and photogaphs by Jan Haley, it describes the area that was used for two thirds of his books and paintings. Ms Haley does a gret job with her photos of explaining why Mr. Evans calls this the Big Empty. Photos of never ending fences, meadows, old rusted out cars, old homesteads, buildings, empty hotels and even an old rusted cash register. These are things I am drawn to and love to photogaph. So I am lucky, a chance reading of a book of essays, an old movie and a book of photogaphs lead me to a place I have never been. Thanks folks, can’t wait to read some of Mr. Evans’ works.

……..Bob Kisken

Max Evans & A Few Friends, The 90th Birthday Book Edited by Ollie Reed Jr., Slim Randles & Ruth Francis

kisken-max evans 90Max Evans & A Few Friends, printed in 2014, it is a celebration of Mr. Evans 90th birthday. Not knowing anything about Mr. Evans, I started to read the book. Before I was half way through, I ordered one of his films and a book of photos about his beloved Hi-Low Country in New Mexico. Based upon what his friends wrote about him, I will start reading his works. The book consists of essays written by his friends about their experiences with him. What a neat tribute to him on his 90th birthday. Mr. Evans is a cowboy, painter, miner, movie director, storyteller, author and, from what I get from the book, a hell of a good friend. I am impressed by his friends loyalty to him, and his loyalty to his friends. Following are some quotes from his friend’s essays “Could wring humor out of a dry saddle blanket”, “I don’t think the man is capable of uttering a dull sentence.” Ollie Reed Jr. “accessible, warm and a nice guy” Barbe Awalt “passion for loving and living” Jeb Stuart Rosebook

It’s the way he brings it all to life

in detail, true to color.

Not quite what you’d expect from

any cocky Texas brawler.

But Max, he has no borders

in the places people do.

He never shuts his eyes

to anything that’s true.

Bridgett (Randles) Brister.

For some reason, one of my favorite essays is the “The Great Lion Hunt” by Luther Wilson. Lots of pencil drawings by Gren Lee and old photographs enhance the book. I would love to sit and listen to Mr. Evans tell stories, but since I can’t, I can read his books and watch his movies. Thanks Rio Grande Press, Rio Grande Books

……..Bob Kisken

Somewhere Out West Trilogy by Denny Bertrand

kisken-book-somewhere out westSomewhere Out West is about Cecil and Pettey, two young cowboys who take care of the grazing land owned by an association. The author, Denny Bertrand, a native of Colorado worked as a cowboy, rodeo announcer, ranch rodeo producer, feedlots and livestock auctions. The book is based upon experiences Denny saw and had when, in he early 1970s, he worked for a grazing association in South Park, Colorado. This is about real cowboys, not the kind who save the owner of the ranch with his six guns, marries the owner’s daughter and ride off into the sunset singing a cowboy song. Not that I don’t enjoy something like that, but I also enjoyed this. The two cowboys are young and single, trying to show their mettle by causing problems for each other. The small town with the cafe run by two women with caustic tongues at times. The feed store, selling all kinds of things needed on the ranch and old men drinking free coffee and telling tales. I suppose anyone who has lived out west for a long time has been there. There is one old doctor in town who has taken care of generations of people. As ranches and farms get larger, these towns blow away. Books like this one are valuable additions to our history. Mundane tasks such as fencing, cattle sorting, doctoring, county fair, sheep (ugh) herding, mule buying, etc., Mundane tasks which the author writes about, and it is interesting. Wish I had read a book like this before I moved out west. It would have helped me understand the culture better. Lots of humor in the book; For example; Cecil goes to court and is asked if he swears to tell the truth, etc. His answer “Do I have to?” Petty’s description of brand inspectors, wish I had that when I lived in Wyoming, knew some brand inspectors I could have used it on. Cecil orders two eggs, one scrambled and one fried. When they come, he just looks at the waitress and she asks what is wrong. He replies, you fried the wrong one. The west is changing, books like this are needed to keep our history alive

Red Dashboard LLC Publishing published Somewhere Out West (

……..Bob Kisken


Jasper, The Story Of A Mule by Meredith Hodges

kisken-book-jasperWhen I was a young boy, my father would read to us from Uncle Wiggly books. Uncle Wiggly was a rabbit. Later, in elementary school, our teachers would read from Freddy the Detective books. Freddy was a pig. Later, I read to myself, books in which the main characters were animals, but no mules.

Now as an old man, I finally read a child’s book in which the main character is a mule. The book, Jasper, The Story Of A Mule was written by Meredith Hodges and illustrated by Bonnie Shields (more about these two later) I wish I had young kids or grankids that I could read this book to, or have them read it to me, but alas, I don’t, but I can still highly recommend it for others, Jasper is a young mule, learning to go over obstacles, sold to a rancher, saddled and ridden, learning to be a cow mule, being in a fire, Oh, heck, buy it and read the book to your kids. I guarantee a few nights of pure enjoyment.

If one reads a history of western exploration and settlement, one finds mules up there with cowboys, stagecoach robberies, Bat Masterson, cattle drives and other things we associate with the west.

Besides that, it is fun to read about new things.

Meredith Hodges lives on the Lucky Tree Ranch in Loveland, CO. She is a writer, trainer, mule judge and makes movies. Google to see more of her books.

Bonnie Shields, who illustrated the book is known as the mule artist. She is a founding member of Cowboy Cartoonists International (google this group to see more about fine cowboy cartoonists) for more about her, go to

I cannot say enough about how well the author’s prose and the illustrator’s pictures fit each other.

The other day, while at the doctors, I was asked what I did for fun. I told the MD, I review books for Rope Burns. What’s the latest book you read? My reply was Jasper, the Story Of A Mule. Wow! Kids books was her reply, that sounds like fun. Get the book for your kids, get in on the fun.

……..Bob Kisken


The Complete Cowboy Bucket List by Slim Randles

kisken-book-complete bucketRio Grande Press has published a series of bucket books or things to do before… This review is of The Complete Cowboy Bucket List, or things to do before you put up your horse and go into the house. If the other books are written as well as this book, Rio Grande has a great series. Google LPD Press and Rio Grande Books. Lots of books about Hispanic art and culture in the Americas and Southwest. This bucket book was written by Slim Randles. Slim is a cowboy, a packer of mules, a fisherman and a hunter. He has also authored many books and writes a syndicated column, Home Country. He also appears to be the kind of guy I could sit by a campfire with and listen to his stories. I am not a cowboy, but I wish I had this book when I was younger, bouncing around the west. I would love to take this book, a road atlas and my truck and visit some of the places Slim writes about. I couldn’t get to Iceland since I don’t fly, but Oh Well! Not only does he write about the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Elko, NV, various rodeos and ranches, but he also writes about schools for barrel racing, bull riding, bull fighting, cowboy hat making, etc., Lots of places where a person those interested in the west and cowboy places can find to go and things to do. Writing is concise and interesting and it also includes website and phone numbers for more info. Best travel guide I have seen.

……..Bob Kisken

Ruby and Maude Series by Nancy Oswald

kisken-book-ruby-maude 02I am going to start something new (for me) in my reviews. Periodically, I will review books written for juvenile and younger readers. There are two reasons I do this as I am convinced that, if one starts reading at a young age, that valuable habit will continue through life. I still remember books read to me more than seven decades ago. I also believe that young people should learn about life in different places and times. What better way to do this than by reading fiction and non fiction. Included in these reviews will be books about cowboys, cowgirls, ranches, train robberies, horses and events in small towns located in the west.

Nancy Oswald is a retired teacher who now lives on a ranch and has written a series of 3 books, The Ruby and Maude series. The third book in the series, Trouble Returns” won a 2017 Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile Fiction from the WWA. It was also a finalist for the Will Rogers Medallion Award for Western Humor.

The story takes place in the Cripple Creek, CO area. In 1896 and involves Ruby, an 11 year old girl, her burro, Maude and her cat trouble.

Mix these three with a train robbery, a classmate who likes to tease Ruby, her father who wants to get married again and the train robber’s trial. One has one heck of a story. No More! Let your child read it for her or himself. One other thing which will not give away the ending, tickled me as an ex school teacher. Ruby has to help a boy with his reading. She takes him to downtown Cripple Creek, where he learns to read some of the signs: liquor, dancehall and saloon. The prim and proper had of the school is not amused. The books are published by Filter Press, Palmer Lake, CO and owned by Doris and Tom Baker.

I am a big fan of Independent Press. Google them, you might find something you want to read about Colorado or the southwest.

……..Bob Kisken



“The Last Coyote, The Don Edwards Story”

                       A Katie Ryan Film (Horse Wisdom Productions)

kisken-don edwardsRecently Horse Wisdom Productions released a documentary film entitled “The Last Coyote: The Don Edwards Story”. Written and produced by Katie Ryan.

It is a film that should appeal to fans of Don Edwards, people interested in the history of cowboy music and people who want to learn.

The film starts out with a group of young people singing The Last Coyote with Don Edwards gradually taking over the song. Along with the singing are photos of both still and video of coyotes, cowboys and the land the song is about.

What a great way to start a documentary film

The film is a documentary about the life of Don Edwards from his boyhood to becoming a premier balladeer of cowboy and western music.

A lot of the film consists of interviews with Don, his wife, Kathy, friends and fellow artists. The interviews flow together, connected by music by Don, Peter Rowan, Andy Hedges, Michael Martin Murphey and many others. There is some beautiful artwork in the film.

I think this film should be important to two types of people

(1) To the person who is an old hand at this type of music, it should bring back good memories of entertainers they have known and enjoyed.

(2) To the novice, which I consider myself to be.

The film has given me some directions, people to read and musicians to hear.

I can picture myself sitting around a campfire listening to Don and his guitar. Just one aside, I first met Don when he was at Buffalo, WY. I wasn’t sure who he was and he surely didn’t know me, but we talked and I enjoyed him. As a lot of the people in the film indicated, he is a nice guy. Anyhow, I’ve learned a lot from the film.

Thanks Katie for giving us such an important film.

……..Bob Kisken


Long Ride To Yesterday By R.G. Yoho

Recently, I came across a company, Outlaws Publishing. They have a large number of western authors.

Wanting to read a good western, I contacted them for suggestions.

One of the books they suggesed was Long Ride To Yesterday by R. G. Yoho. I bought it, read it, and wanted another book by him.

Briefly put, the book is about Gain Carson, former lawman, going back to Abilene, Kansas from Montana. After a 20 year absence, he is reurning to help an old friend. He hooks up with a young man who is also returning to Abilene. Full of action, unexpeced twists and turns. I was hooked by the end of the first chapter.

Google “Outlaws Publishisng” and check out their writers. Lots of its books are on Kindle. I look forward to a lot of good reading, hope you will too.

……..Bob Kisken

Montie Montana, Not Without My Horse

kisken-book-montana-2Years ago in the 70 or 80s I took this photo of Montiekisken-book-montana3 Montana in Miles City Montana. At the time I was living in Michgan and knew nothing about the man. Years latter I moved to Mobridge South Dakota It was there that I met Norm Schneider who had rodeoed in the Mobridge area. We became good friends and it is because of him that I have these two books. After WW2 Norm waws stationed in Germany and was part of a rodeo that entertained the troops. Jack Loyd wrote a book about their exploits. If you want a book about a different kind of rodeo, get it. You will not be disappointed. Norm knew Montie as he spent part of his early tears growing up in the area. Norm asked me if I wanted a copy of Monties autobiography. He called Montie up and one of my prized possession is an autographed copy of the book. The photos are worth the price of the book. Two good books for those interested in rodeos and cowboy entertainers to get.kisken-montana3

……..Bob Kisken


Gathering From The Grassland, A Plains Journal

by Linda Hasselstrom

kisken-book-hasselstromOver 50 years ago, I read as powerful a scene as I ever read in a book.

I still remember how I reacted when I read it. The book was Cry The Beloved Country.

Just this week, I had the same experience while reading Linda Hasselstrom’s new book, Gathering From The Grassland, A Plains Journal.

In a few short paragraphs, she describes her actions when she visited the moveable Vietnam Wall, which was guarded over by  Lakota Veterans, who had served in Vietnam, dressed in their uniforms.

Just the few paragraphs make the book worth reading. I’ll say no more as I hope you experience what I did.

There are two books which I have constantly read parts of over the years. Both writers have lived in South Dakota. One is a monk from Eastern South Dakota and the other a woman from Northwest South Dakota. I now have a third one.

I like this book. It brings back memories and introduces me to new experiences.

In this book, Linda uses personal and her parents’ journal to explain and recall events in her life.

It takes guts to do this. Whenever I start to do what she does, I get out of that place in my mind as quickly as possible.

I enjoy reading books written by people who have lived in different parts of the country than I.

The book is published by High Plains Press in Wyoming. You can Google for more information.

……..Bob Kisken

 Barney: The Lopsided Mule by Liz Hughey & Sons

barney, mule“Liz Hughey & Son’s, Barney: The Lopsided Mule is a wonderful, whimsical story that poses solutions to some simple, yet important issues that often plague children. Barney meets a new friend with a new perspective that positively changes Barney’s  life forever. Bonnie Shields’ illustrations engage the reader and complement the author in teaching children valuable information about health, happiness and safety with pack mules while exploring some of the most amazing options that our country has to offer. Truly a delight and a “must-have” for your children’s library!” – Meredith Hodges, founder of Lucky Three Ranch

For more information:

The Hell-Bound Train by Glenn Ohrlin

book-kisken-ohrlinGlenn Ohrlin, cowboy, rodeo performer, and entertainer was as good an entertainer as I have seen in my years of covering cowboy music festivals.

I first saw him in Elko in 2011. I was struck by his facial features and tried to get a candid photo of him. I had no idea who he was, but then I heard him perform, I became a big fan of his.

In other writings, I have described him as the best of the best.

The next time I saw him was when he appeared in Valentine, Nebraska. I went there specifically to get him to sign a photo taken in Elko. I was fortunate enough to spend time with him listening to his stories. When asked if he had any CDs, he replied “No, I don’t want to eat them for breakfast.”KISKEN-ohrlin 01

Glenn was a regular at the Cody, Wyoming Cowboy Festival. One of the best events, I have seen was in Cody. Six perofrmers sat on a stage, told stories, sang songs, and bantered. Knon as the “Bunkhouse Tales”, it was also taped. Glenn was always one of the six. Leslie Keltner, organizer of the event, has tapes for sale. Email me at for more info. They are great to listen to.

This article is a tribute to Glenn, a review of his book and some of my wanderings.

In 1973, the University of Illinois released “The Hell-Bound Train, A Cowboy Songbook”, written and compiled by Glenn. The book is going to be re-released. I got tired of waiting so I bought a used copy. Best money ever spent.

kisken-ohrlin02100 songs with musical scores are included. Glenn also includes what history he remembers about the songs. There are three or four books that should be in every performer or fans’ library. (I am always astounded when I have to introduce a performer to this book.)

Here are some of the song’s titles: My Home’s In Montana; Windy Bill; The Old Scout Laments; Old-Time Cowboy; Dakota Land; The Mowing Machine; The Strawberry Roan; He Rode The Strawbery Roan.

Cowboy songs, great to sit around a campfire and listen to real cowboys sing them.kisken-ohrlin-case

I would love to see six performers, who knew Glenn Glenn, sitting aroud and singing from this book and telling tales about Glenn. At the end, one of the prim and proper stars would come and say “ This one is for you, Glenn” and procede to give a rousing rendition of “The Castration Of The Strawberry Roan.kisken-ohrlin03

Recently I received a second edition of The Hell-Bound Train to review. Published by the Texas Tech University Press. It is edited by Charlie Seemann. Cost of the book is 24.95.The photos which are new to the book are well worth the price. Thanks to Texas Tech and Charlie Seemann for making the book available again. It is a most valuable book that you will be glad you have.

……..Bob Kisken

The Real Singing Cowboys by Charlie Seemann

book-kisken-seemannCharlie Seemann is the executive director emeritus of the Western Folklife Center in Elko, NV and has recently released a book entitled “The Real Singing Cowboys”.

It is a compilation of biographical sketches replete with photos from various sources of cowboy entertainers that he has known over the years.

Anyone who follows this type of music would find the book interesting and useful.

Each artist has, besides a short biography, a valuable list of awards, a discography, books authored.

Hear a new artist that you want more of, go to this book and see what is out there.

It is a Two Dot book distributed by the National Book Network and is a good informative addition to your library.

For more books like this

……..Bob Kisken

Cowboy Collectibles and Western Memorabilia By Robert W.D. Ball & Ed Verbell

kisken-book-western collectiblesRobert W.D. Ball and Ed Verbell have compiled a book, published by Schiffer Publishing. The title is “Cowboy Collectibles and Western Memorabilia.

The book covers 18 categories with photos, pricing and brief descriptions and histories.

Categories such as rifles, hats, bits, saddles, branding irons, pistols and others are covered.

Western collectibles have become a very hot hobby for western collectors worldwide. There are a number of auctions around the country and also many bit and spur shows for the collectors.

This book is a good guide and start point for those who want to get involved in collecting this part of our American heritage. There are lots of great photos and references for the beginner and also for the veteran.

A friend of mine who is a western artist had this to say about the book, “It is an oldie, but a good one. My friend posted on the website “Western Artist and Artisans”. Look it up . It is a great website.

I certainly can see how this book would be a valuable addition to western artist writers and collectors, all who need to make sure of the authenticity of what they do.

……..Bob Kisken

Cowboy With A Camera by Erwin E Smith, Story by Don Worcester

kisken-book-cowboy with camera coverRecently, I bought a used book, Cowboy With A Camera, with photographs by Erwin E. Smith and story by Don Worcester.

Mr. Smith (1886-1947), photographed and lived the life of a working cowboy in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, from 1905-1912.

Mr. Worcester, born in 1915, supplements the photos with a written explanation of the photos. The book was copyrighted in 1998 by the Amon Carter Museum of Fort Worth, Texas.

It is a short book, just 48 pages, but I can’t imagine anyone from the old grizzled cowboy to someone like myself not liking or learning something from this book.

I am a big fan of old glass negatives. Mr. Smith’s photos are fantastic. The writing is also clear and concise

Mr. Worcester covers cowboys, cattle, horses, roundups, trail to market, dangers of the seasons, and daily life. I wish I had read this book before. I came out west.

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I will try to get my granddaughter and grandson to read it. It is an important piece of history and must have been one hellova era.

Real Cowboys of the Old West by Harry Caplin

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If I were marooned on an island and only had mail access to one publishing house, I would choose Schiffer Publishing. What a great company. If you can’t find something of interest in their catalog, then look again.

The latest book I have is Harry Caplin’s Real Cowboys of the Old West. Mr. Caplin was a free-lance photographer who recorded western ran life in the west from 1940-1980.
At first, I wondered why there was no biography of him in the book. Maybe his daughter, Abbie Caplin (whose name appears on the cover) let his photos be his biography.
The prose is sparse which I appreciate. Mr. Caplin lets his photos speak for themselves and they do over and over again.
There is something he writes which I cheer, “I don’t do weddings, babies or portraits”, nuff said.
As one goes through the book, one gets a sense of that which interested him. These photos are taken and printed by an artist who shows his interest and deep affection for his subject.
No question, anyone with an interest in the history and images of ranching in the west should have this book in his or her library.

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On page 21, someone wrote “Caplin’s photography offers no manipulation or imitation, just truth, awareness, and character. He created his own style, not a copy of someone else”.
What he sees is what you get.
The photos are in black and white (my favorite), subject of each photo hit me when I look, I don’t have to guess, subjects beautifully placed on the photo and the captions are right to the point.
What a beautiful book. Get one if you can. You will not be disappointed.

……..Bob Kisken

Rodeo Stories and Rodeo Stories II “A Collection of True Cowboy Tales” by Chimp Robertson

kisken-rodeo storiesYears ago, I attended a cowboy fest in Cody, WY. One of my favorite parts was when the cowboy and cowgirl musicians sat in a circle and each one sang an old cowboy song.
For a novice, such as myself, it was a fun evening.
Chimp Robertson does the same for me in compiling an oral history of rodeo tales.
His book, Cowboy Tales “A Collection of True Cowboy Tales”, consists of 6 chapters of about 20 tales each, written by cowboys who have participated in rodeos in one way or another.kisken-rodeo stories ii
They are all about rough stock events with a high percentage of them on bull riding.
This quote from James Branson probably describes what is in the book better than I can, “Son, yer gonna find out there’s two rodeos. The one inside the arena and the one outside.”
As far as I am concerned, Mr. Robertson has done a great job in picking cowboys who write about the inside and the outside with great storytelling ability.
I think I could sit in a circle and listen to these guys for hours on end.
Another one of my favorite quotes by a cowboy, “I ride bulls not for the glory, but for the passion”.
I used to wonder why cowboys rode bulls, until I photographed a small rodeo in Terry, Montana. For some reason, they let me into the arena. One of the pickup men would warn me about the stock. I even got a rush of adrenaline climbing the fence. It was then I realized what the bull riders get.
There is even a writer whom I will call the Yogi Berra of cowboys. In his article, he writes, “If you don’t like it, don’t read it.”
One more reference to the book, the funniest thing I have read in a long time is the response of Butch Wojescowski to Jimmy Dean. It’s worth the price of the book.
Get the book. It is worth the price. It helps people, who are novices like me, understand some things better, and for the long time rodeo fan, it will bring up some great memories.

……..Bob Kisken

Where Horses Reign by Clark Crouch

kisken-book02-Where Horses Reign - FrontCover“So take your trucks elsewhere
to rip up the terrain
and keep them off my ranch
where me and horses reign”
These are the last four lines in the book of poems, “Where Horses Reign” by Clark Crouch.
The author, Clark Crouch, was born in 1928 in rural Nebraska. His early years were spent in the Sandhills of Nebraska. His meeting Badger Clark started his interest in, what is now known, as cowboy poetry.
This book consists of 45 short poems and explores his early days and experiences in the Sandhills.
I am a little younger than Mr. Crouch and was not born in the Sandhills. Poems like his make me wish I were.
With a sparseness of words, he covers subjects such as; 4×4 trucks, soddies, arbor day, bulls, windy cowboys, bunkhouses, weather, musical saws, catalogs, bordellos, cooks, Badger Clark, duck tape, etc. You get the picture, get the book and read it, guaranteed your enjoyment.
Now, some of my favorites:


Duct Tape
“Bailing wire will work just fine,
‘course of duck tape,
there’s no trace,”
Cow Town
“When the last one is gone
the pace of life will slow down,
a quiet place of extremes,
till the next herd comes to town”
Cowboy Musician
“He played an old rip saw,
blowing music from the thing,
and hammering out this tunes
to make that old saw sing.”
The Longest Trail
“Despite the cold and the heat,
the traveler must prevail
‘cause it’s the old outhouse
at the end of the trail.”
No Real Cowboys
“No, not many real cowboys
are still around to see,
wouldbees have taken over
and it seems a shame to me”
Our Weather Man
“He should apologize,
as he begins each show,
for the last forecast he gave
then have his say and go.”
I think you get the picture. Google Mr. Crouch, he has twice won the Will Rogers Medallion for his poetry and enjoy.  Western Poetry Publications, Richland Washington email: ISBN: 0-9624438-1-6

……..Bob Kisken

Rhyme ‘Em Cowboy by Tom Swearingen 

huff-tom swearingenTom Swearingen, horseman, poet, writer, Oregonian, has released his second CD titled “Rhyme “Em Cowboy”. It consists of 18 original poems written and recited by Tom.
Tom explains what and how he is going to do in the first poem “Rhyme “Em Cowboy”. He has a clever way with words:
The last 4 lines are:
“So rhyme ‘em cowboy! Let ‘er buck!
I’m sittin’ poems to flyin’.
Hope you enjoy, but if you don’t,
At least, by gosh, I’m tryin”.

The listener is glad you tried because I sure enjoyed it.
In a gentle and soft, non preacher tone, he speaks of his love of horses, good friends, cowboying, Oregon, dogies, Superstition Mountains, sounds of horses’ hooves, campfires, wagon trains, yarns and family history and more.
Some of my favorites:
1) Replanted Roots
beautiful description of his grandfathers’ farm auction and his move from Nebraska to Oregon
2) Pendleton Roundup Wagon Train with tales of the wagon train for reading
3) Teddy Franke is One Tough Hand
“Was an odor some familiar
Though not of burning tree
That’s when Teddy realized
That burning smell was me”
4) The Visit is a great tribute to an old friend
5) When a Horse’s Hoof His the Ground
“I hear something special
When a horse hoof hits the ground
There’s nothing else as magic
As the rhythm of that sound.”
Buy and listen to the CD, you will find your own magic. Before I was born, my dad worked with milk cows out east. He had to leave that during the 30s when he got a job working in the factory, but I could tell he missed the cows.
I guess it is the same for old timers who go to bull sales.
Poets like Tom help me understand this, Thanks, Tom.

CD: $15 “plus postage” through, also spotify, iTunes, cdbaby and other outlets.

……..Bob Kisken

Pawnee Bill’s Wild West; A Photo Documentary of the 1900-1905 Show Tours

by Allen Farnum Photos by Harry Bock

kisken-book-pawnee bill 03If you had your choice which one of these would you rather go to; 1-a computer generated movie about a space battle or 2-a wild west show of the early 20th Century?
Another great book published by Schiffer Publishing in 1992, written by Allen Farnum with photographs by Harry Bock. The Book “Pawnee Bills Wild West-A photo documentary of the 1900s-1905 show tours”.
Pawnee Bill (Major Gordon W. Lillie), born 1860, became enamored of the west and became a buffalo hunter, showman, plains scout, white chief of the Pawnees, etc. He was with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show and eventually started his own show. He bought a ranch in Pawnee, OK. The ranch is now the Pawnee Bill Museum.
Harry Bock, a many of many talents, was an amateur photographer who toured with Pawnee Bill in the 1900-1905 era. His black and white photos make up most of the book.

kisken-book-pawnee bill
The photos ended up in the Farnum family where, eventually, Allen Farnum put them together in this book.
The author writes that the photographs show the spirit of the west. There are many photographs of the various wagons, the performers, tents and trains that were used to transport the show from town to town.
The photos help me imagine the thrill of the waiting for the show, watching for the train, unloading, parade, posters, plus putting up the tents, taking them down and the show itself.
Unfortunately, those days are long gone and I don’t think they have been replaced with something better.
What a book, well worth the price.

……..Bob Kisken

Sun and Saddle Leather
kisken-cd western folklife center 01The Western Folklife Center of Elko, NV, has released a most impressive CD “Sun and Saddle Leather” which consists of 22 classic western verses written by Charles Badger Clark.
The verses are sung and/or recorded by various artists who performed them at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, NV between 1985 and 2015. The tracks are the actual recordings at these gatherings.
Artists such as Owen Johnson, Don Edwards, Waddie Mitchell, Joseph Hertz, Linda Hasselstrom, Gary McMahan, Conie Dover, Jerry Brooks and many others perform the 22 selections. Kudos to the staff who put this together.
The history of cowboy poetry is important. With this CD, I (a newcomer) get a chance to hear performers I have not heard and poems I do not know. I would like to see more discs of this type produced in the future. Perhaps a cd of songs from Glenn Ohrlin’s book, “The Hell Bound Train”, would be a welcome addition.
Included with the CD is a booklet with a short history of Badger Clark. Each poem is printed in the booklet,. This is important to some of us who enjoy listening and reading the poems.
Some of my favorites, knowing that were I to do this review in 6 months, they would probably change.
1-Cowboy’s Prayer, I have heard this a lot and never tire of it
2-The Locoed Horse-What a sad description of a horse going round a bare tree looking for shade, a beautiful poem full of feeling
3-The Legend of Boastful Bill-Don’t we all know people like Boastful Bill? Some are fun and some not so much.
4-The Old Cow Man-I have always enjoyed talking with men in their 80s and 90s who are willing to tell me about their early life on the range. This poem brings back some of these lessons.
My advice, new or old to cowboy poetry, you will find something new or remember something you haven’t heard for a while.
If not, listen to it again. Thanks Western Folklife Center.
Western Folklife Center, 501 Railroad, St. Elko, NV 89801,

………Bob Kisken

The West That Was by John Eggen

kisken-book-west that wasIn 1965, a woman called photographer John Eggen and offered him the glass plates taken by Frank Sherman of cowboys in Eastern Colorado around the turn of the Century.
What came out of this transaction is the book “The West That Was” published by Schiffer publishing.
It is one of the best books, if not the best, I have on cowboy life.
The preface to the book, written by Mr. Eggen, is the best description I have read about early cowboy life. It is short, concise and to the point.
Perhaps I use too many superlatives in this review, but the book deserves everyone one of them. Mr. Eggen limits his prose and lets the photos speak for themselves.
His selection of photos showing the everyday tasks of roundups and brandings are fantastic. One of my favorites is the one of the cowboys playing mumbly peg. (A game I played as a kid).

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The photos of brandings are scenes that I have seen today. The process has not changed much since then.
Anyone who has an interest in early cowboy life would find this book a great edition to their library.
(ED NOTE: There are lots of chuckwagon photos for the chuckwagon folks
……..Bob Kisken

Cowgirls, Early Images and Collectibles by Judy Crandall

kisken-book-cowgirlsFor over 30 years, Judy Crandall has been involved with the collection of artifacts of the Old West. She has written “Cowgirls: Early Images and Collectibles” for people who are interested in (1) early history of women inkisken-bookk-cowgirls03 rodeo (2) early photographers of rodeo (3) people who collect rodeo photographs, postcards and advertising using cowgirl images and other artifacts. Many will find this book a valuable addition to their library.
The book, published in 1994 by Schiffer Publishing is a welcome part of my library. I highly recommend it.
In a one page introduction, she extends my knowledge of women rodeo contestants in the early 1900s. Coming from ranches, circuses and wild west shows, they participated in a bull riding, bronc busting, bull dogging, roping, races and trick riding. It must have been an interesting and exciting time.
In 1929, Bonnie McCarroll was killed bronc riding at Pendleton, which led to the decrease of women in the so called “men’s events”.
Another page introduces us to some of the early rodeo photographers whose images often appeared on postcards. We are introduced to Ralph Doubleday, John Stryker, Devere Helfrich, Foster Photo and others who did some fabulous work with primitive equipment.
The first 3 chapters contain biographical sketches of some of the women, replete with black and white photos and postcards from the authors and others collections. Portraits, group photos and action shots make up most of them. As a amateur photographer, I am mesmerized by the quality of the action shots.
Most of the last part of the book is devoted to the use of the cowgirl in advertising. Lots of great graphics.
The most memorable time I’ve had was at the College National Finals in Casper, WY was the evening before the rodeo when I sat with Mr. Harry Vold and listened to his tales of his early life in rodeo. Along with Mrs. Crandall’s book, it make me wonder if I was (like my friend in Montana) born too late.
You can google Schiffer Publishing for more information.

……..Bob Kisken

The Films of Audie Murphy by Bob Larkins and Boyd Magers

kisken-book-murphyDuring WW II, the following (among others) people, well known in the movie industry, served in World War II: Jimmy Stewart, Gene Autry, James Arness, Eddie Albert, Sir Alec Guiness, Mel Brooks, Ernest Borgnine, Henry Fonda and Lee Marvin and this is not a complete list.
Other actors with reputations of stand up guys, who came to rescue people from villains stayed home to make films and money. Some of them are held up as patriotic Americans and even have structures named after them. You know who they are.
Recently, I was sent a copy of a book by McFarland Publishing to review for Rope Burns. If you are not familiar with McFarland and are interested in westerns, both TV and movies, it might be worth your while to look at their offerings. Go to
The book, The Films of Audie Murphy, was written by Bob Larkins and Boyd Magers.
The only movie of Murphy’s I had seen, until now was To Hell and Back, which was about Mr. Murphy’s WWII service. As a kid of 17, he lied about his age, enlisted in the US Army and went on to become the most decorated soldier of WW II. This includes his Congressional Medal of Honor.
This book would be a welcome addition to anyone’s library who has an interest in the westerns. In chronological order, it lists his first film, Beyond Glory (1948), to his last, A Time for Dying (1971).
Each film has its credits, cast, location, length of shooting, cast of shooting, plot and a review of the movie. I enjoy watching the movie and then reading the review. I am grateful for the groups that make many of the old films available again.
At the end of most reviews, are comments and remembrances. These are most valuable comments by people who worked and knew Audie. Perhaps they might help one understand what he was all about.
The photographs are a great addition to the book.
The first sentence in the introduction reads “When Audie Murphy died in a plane crash in a Virginia mountainside on May 28, 1971, the film world remained largely uninvolved.”
If you ready nothing else, read the introduction and the epilogue. They got me thinking about our heroes. The book is well worth reading.

……..Bob Kisken

Stagecoach Rare Views of the Old West 1849-1915 By Sandor Demlinger

kisken-book-stagecoachRecently, I have become addicted to old western movie stars such as Wild Bill Elliot, Gabby Hayes, Ken Maynard, Monte Hale, Hoot Gibson, Smiley Burnett, Tim McCoy, Rocky Lane, Bob Livingston and Rex Allen. I even saw one with Lou Gehrig in it and the list could go on and on.
In a lot of these films, there is a stagecoach holdup. I decided to do a little research on stagecoaches. The first book I got is “Stagecoach, Rare Views of the Old West 1849-1915” by Sandor Demlinger.
This book is published by Schiffer Publishing.
The company is an independent family owned company started in 1974. It only publishes non fiction topics, not all, such as antiques and collectibles, art, fishing, military history, maritime, sports and photography and are in their catalogues. They even have a book on moonshine.
Google Schiffer and you might find something of interest. I did and found lots not just about cowboys and cowgirls.
Demlinger, who was a photographer (one thing I appreciate is that Mr. Demelinger attempted to give credit to any photographer of the main photos in the book.
The book is divided into eight chapters loaded with old paintings, photographs, engravings of stagecoaches, wagons, old hotels, old western towns, parades and wild west shows.
I am impressed by its content and it is a valuable addition to my photograph books on the west. It also has given me new places to go with my readings.
A few of my favorite photographs and chapters: Page 46-Ute pass showing a string of wagons coming down. Made from the original glass plate and I can only guess where the photographer was when the photo was taken. It is amazing that these photos were taken with primitive cameras and low ISO films or plates.
Page 61-A fantastic photo of a train load of stagecoaches being shipped from Concord NH to Cheyenne, WY. WOW!
Page 74-Stagecoach to the mines. I have seen others photos of wagons, burros, carrying goods to mines, but these are a wonderful pair of western history.
Page 143-Stages and railroad coaches at Fullerton, CA railroad station.
A few words about my two favorite chapters, Chapter 7, deals with wild west shows and tourism. .Photos from I includes photos of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, early parade in LA, gambling in Rawhide, NV and a great picture of Hoot Gibson on a stagecoach in an early silent western movie.
The best chapter in the book is an album of old stage coach portraits. These historical photos of old stagecoaches along with drawings of coaches made the Abbot Dowing Co of Concord, NH, is worth the price of the book.
I have a friend who lives in a small Montana town. another friend told me that this guy was born 100 years too late, after reading Stagecoach, I understand what he meant.

……..Bob Kisken

Cowboys by John Eggen

kisken-book-cowboys 01Cowboys, written by John Eggen, using the photographs taken by Frank Sherman and published by Schiffer Publsihing is one of the best, in my collection, of photography books on the west.
I put it up there with the book on Lady Cameron, “Photographing Montana” . If I rated books on a one to ten scale, I would give this one a 12.
Even if there was no commentary, it would still be a great book to have. Mr Eggen’s concise writings give a description of the cowboy and his life, most powerful and educational.
In 1966, John Eggen was offered some boxes of glass negatives, mostly taken around 1903 in eastern Colorado by photographer, Frank Sherman.
Using these, he eventually published “Cowboys”, which pictures cowboy life around the turn of the century.
Get it, read it,you will see why I am most speechless.

……..Bob Kisken

B Western Actors Encyclopedia by Ted Holland

kisken-book-b westernRecently, I started watching old B Westerns. Perhaps I am going through a second childhood. Some say I never got out of my first.
Whenever I get interested in a topic, I will google to see what books are out there. I just recently found an excellent one which is right up my alley.
B Western Actors Encyclopedia by Ted Holland published by McFarland, was for me a great find.
Divided into four parts it gives the history and filmography of (1) The Heroes (2) The Sidekicks (3) The Cowgirls and (4) the Bad Guys. When I see a new actor or actress, I read up on them and check them off. Lots of fun.
McFarland is an interesting publisher. If you have an interest in westerns in film and TV, google it. Among some of their book topics are Randolph Scott, Joel McCrae, Audie Murphy and leading western women, TV westerns, Zane Grey characters and rodeo and Hollywood fans.

……..Bob Kisken




Poetry of the American West “Bitter Creek Junction” by Linda M Hasselstrom

kisken-book-hasselstromTwo of my favorite women authors, who write or have written about the west, are Linda Hasselstrom and Maria Sandoz. Both had fathers who were not happy with their desire to write, fortunately, for readers such as myself, they continued to write.
It is not unusual for me to suggest these two writers to people who are looking for more female writers to read.
Linda is a rancher, writer, poet, teacher, ex publisher (Lame Johnny Press) and performer. She has been to Elko Cowboy Festival at various times as a participant. She also runs a school for  writers at her ranch in Hermosa, South Dakota (google Windbreak House).
Recently, I bought a book of poems by Linda titled “Bitter Creek Junction” published by High Plains Press.
I also got a tape of Linda reading the poems which was also produced by Windbreak House. Twenty seven poems read by Linda and I follow along reading from the book. It is a most enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.
Man of the poems bring back experiences I had or read about. Let me list a few.
Make a Hand (one of my favorite)
“Gender issues didn’t surface, not until we got around to branding, even then he didn’t call them that”
I remember a woman I met at brandings who did everything. I asked her if any of the men were upset because she castrated. Her answer, “Bob, we were poor and had no hired man. I learned to do everything on the ranch? She also wrote poetry which I never saw, wished I had.
Haystack May Afternoon
“This great gold mound beams heat I can’t resist” What a beautiful way to start a poem about something as ordinary as a haystack.
Death of the last Cowboy
“Tom Blasingame has died the way he lived and all of us have course to miss him” I wonder how many of us die doing something we loved. Reminds me of the tale I read of an avid fisherman who died while fishing in his favorite stream and gently slide into the water.
Making Chokeberry Jam
“Two grandmothers, Jerry’s and my own, join me in our kitchen this November night, although they both died years ago and never met”.
The Empty Highway, The Unwritten Poem, what a beautiful tribute to a friend who died too soon.
What a beautiful book of poems. Each time I read and listen, I am surrounded by beauty, My words do not do justice to it.

……..Bob Kisken

Just Beyond Harmony   By   Gaydell Collier

John Graves, J. Frank Dobie, Linda Hasselstrom, Maria Sandoz and Ivan Doig are all authors I read while still living in Michigan These are just a few of the authors that led me to new places or to a lifestyle long gone. Since retirement, I have lived in South Dakota, Wyoming and now, Colorado, gathering new ideas (some good, some bad), and having some new great experiences; college rodeos, cowboy poetry, brandings, cattle drives, rodeo clown reunion, etc.). I also have friends in places, I never knew existed (Hell, I even like mountain oysters cooked on a hot branding stove).

For years, I have had an interest in oral history of people from other places. There is a great small press located in Glendo, Wyoming. High Plains Press. It was started in 1984 by its publisher, Nancy Curtis. High Plains Press publishes about four books a year on Wyoming and western history. I have never read one of their books I haven’t enjoyed. Google it and look at their offerings. You will not be disappointed.

Mrs. Curtis recently sent me a copy of “Just Beyond Harmony” by Gaydell Collier.

Gaydell, from NY and her husband, Roy, from Illinois, met at the University of Wyoming. Both came west to satisfy their dreams of living the western life. Married and having a family of four, having lived in Vermont for a while, they moved to the small unincorportated village of Harmony, WY. Located on the great Laramie River, south of Laramie and it is a ranching community.

They were both looking for the wild freedom of the west and had dream of someday owning a ranch.

Mrs. Collier writes mainly of her experiences raising a family of four kids in a primitive Wyoming cabin during the 1960s.

She writes of the outhouse, learning to cook on a wood cook stove, rural school where her kids went, haying, helping neighbors at branding time, priming the water pump. splitting wood for the stove and trailing cattle on horseback.

The parents eventually moved to a ranch near Sundance, WY and more importaltly the children grew up and developed a self sufficiency and the ability to cope.

I like the book. Why?, being of the same age, I enjoy comparing my experience with other people who lived different lives. Sometimes our experiences come together proving, to me at least, that while we may be different in some ways, we are all alike in others. People are interesting.

Mrs. Davis was kind enough to send me a CD of the book, as I am having some eye trouble . Go to or for more info.

If you want to curl up with a good book, or listen to a good CD, get it. You will not be sorry.

……..Bob Kisken


Steering With My Knees By Paul Zarzyski

Paul Zarzyski just released a double CD/album titled “Steering With My Knees”. It consists of 34 poems, most of them from his previously released book of the same title.

Paul and his team “Steering” worked on this project for 18 months. He calls this project “a word-music critter”. Reading his own poems, he is accompanied by various musicians. He also claims that the third step in this project will be a poetry video. I can’t wait.

The artwork is the booklet accompanying the cds is neon colorful, alive and expressed quite well the movement in the cds.

One thing which I really appreciate is that he devotes eight pages of the booklet to the musicians. This is done in print, easy to read and not buried on the back in small letters. This allows one to easily check out the various artists on the internet. Remember “Team Steering?

One of the first things one reads in the booklet is “Exotic/zany/ZIARzyski”. It sure as hell is.

If you read my review of the book, you know I like his poetry. As I wrote a friend, “His poetry makes me think and pay attention. Also, it is nice to know that I can still do that.”

Now, lets get to the music poetry critter. The music and the poetry go hand in hand and certainly compliment each other. One of his poems even uses a washing machine for background. How’s that for being creative?

Now to Paul’s reciting, of his own poetry. I have heard Paul, read him and listened to him on CD. I am never disappointed and always pick up something new, after multiple readings or hearings.

Who in hell writes poems about….. Or lines like these…..?

(1) potatoes (2) a gridiron porn star (3) riding and old “65 Maytag” (4) “when us cowboy see a shooting star the Lone Ranger missed again, we say” (5) who places a frozen block of tofu to discourage magpies from going after smaller bird food? (6) “planet earth is the #1 rated syndicated half hour sit com” (7) Zeke Zarzyski gets 86 from a bar in which he drank shots of hair of the dog (8) suggest that a mink stole is called that because the Canadian stole the skin off minks (9) “the lonely hearts club way out here is a thousand bawling steers” (10) killer moths (11) “Even your own mothers would opt for obscene collect phone calls from the parish priest over hearing from you” (12) “I rode the bronc, Whiskey Talks, in the same arena Dylan sang “Blowing in he Wind” (13) “You can live in the hereafter, help the churches fill their pews” (14) “his doctor and mechanic had to form a partnership”

Were I to write this review months from now, I know that I would come up with more gems.

About this CD, GET IT, you won’t regret it. Kabish?

……..Bob Kisken 


Deadfall     by Stephen Lodge

     A friend of mine emailed me and asked how a friend of his could get a book reviewed in Rope Burns. It’s easy, send me a copy and, if I like it, I will review it.
I like to read and, if I like a book, I will tell people about it. Some of the best books I have read were introduced to me by other friends. So if you have just read a fiction, non fiction or poetry book about the west and liked it, send me a copy for a review.
Stephen Lodge sent me 3 books of his: 1-Charley Sunday’s Texas Outfit 2-Deadfall 3-And Action, stories from Mr. Lodge’s life in and around the Hollywood motion picture business. Google him to read about his career.
The first two books are a series about Charlie Sunday, an ex-Texas Ranger and some of his friends.
I chose to read the second one first, Why? Who knows!
Deadfall takes place mainly in Mexico where Charlie and his group of interesting characters go into Mexico to rescue his daughter an son-in-law from the bad Don, owner of a large hacienda, who turns out to be slightly unhinged. His grandson, young Henry Ellis gets mixed up in the events and has to be rescued.
Of course, the good guys win, who reads westerns to have the bad guys win?
It is how they win that makes the book a good read. The book has more twists and turns than a corn maize in November.
Get a copy, buy or steal it, it was a fun read.
Can’t wait to read the other two and see some of the movies that Mr. Lodge has coauthored.

……..Bob Kisken


And…Action!  Photos and Stories From My Life In and Around the Hollywood Motion Picture Business    By Stephen Lodge

Stephen Lodge has written a book: “And Action…” About his life in and around the motion picture business. Much of the book involves the B Westerns of movies and TV

At the age of 8, he visited a shooting set at the Iverson Ranch. From there, he went on to be a child actor, teenage stuntman, shooter, studio messenger, costumer, script writer and author.
Replete with photographs taken in the day, his book is a great addition to anyone’s library that deals with B Westerns.
While not the western fan that Mr. Lodge is (growing up in NY, I was a baseball fan) his book does 3 things for me.
1-It was a fun read and I had a hard time putting it down. Photos were also great.
2-It brought back memories. I remember listening to the Lone Ranger as a kid. The last chapter in the book was a nice tribute to Clayton Moore.
3-The book also brings back memories of TV shows I watched off and on such as: Roy Rogers, Have Gun Will Travel, Gunsmoke, etc.
I have started watching old black and white western movie stars such as Ken Maynard, Bob Baker, the Cisco Kid, Audie Murphy and the book has given me new areas to watch and read.
I guess that the book has taken this old man back to a childhood he didn’t have. Get a copy, you will not be disappointed.

……..Bob Kisken


Bulls, Broncs and Barrooms by Del Gustafson

     When I read some (not all) cowboy poetry, I am reminded of what a famous piano player said of a famous singer, “I can’t listen to her – she is bad for my diabetes”.
Some poetry likes to sanitize, purify and get cowboys ready for sainthood. I have met cowboys who need a lot of sanitizing. I have also have a tendency to gag when I hear about working for the brand or the code of the west.
Del Gustafson doesn’t try to make myths out of cowboys in his new poetry book Bulls, Broncs And Barrooms. He writes about his subjects, good along with the bad.      He also throws in a little BS (I think) and that is why I like it.
Del must have had an interesting youth and I believe he writes about it with honesty.
Here are just a few of the topics he covers: Haying, rodeo clowns and rodeo performers, breaking horses, women, rustling, chasing and watching wild horse herds, drought, dying, etc., He covers these topics, that I as an outsider, can appreciate and understand a way of life, 23 poems.
Some examples
(1) Cattle Drive, interesting take on how some (not all) ranchers got their start
(2) Angel In A Red Dress, cowboy doesn’t always get the girl
(3) Bill Reiber (I’ve met lots of interesting people in the west)
“I marvel at Bill’s patience,
with this loud and thoughtless kid,
No, Bill never was a talker,
he just went out and did”
(4) Cow Docs
“Rope burns, bruises, busted ribs,
painful stomped on feet,
the cowboy may need more doctoring
than the stock they were meant to treat”
(5) Green Colt
“It was plain that there wasn’t a chance
I’d catch the horse before he got to the ranch.
I’ll be straggling in, for everyone to see,
they’ll be jeering, catcalling and laughing at me”
(6) Herb Thompson: One of the funniest BS stories I’ve read.
(7) Horse Hunt
“What does it take to chase mustangs
that have never known a fence
It takes a darn good saddle horse
and total lack of sense”
(8) Trails End
“He crawled in his old sugoon
Pulling his boots inside,
A cold rainy storm raged on,
The night the old cowboy died”
It is a good book to read, for more information

……..Bob Kisken

Rustler’s Moon by Jim Jones

Jim Jones is a native Texan, who now lives in Albuquerque, NM. He is an award winning musician, composer and author of western based songs and stories.
He has written a trilogy of western historical fiction set in northern New Mexico about the main character, Jared Delaney. The books in order are: 1-Rustler’s Moon 2-Coloado Moon and 3-Waning Moon.
I was fortunate enough to meet him at the Chugwager, WY Chili Cookoff and get a copy of his first book, Rustler’s Moon, to review for Rope Burns. Please bear witih me as I haven’t reviewed a fiction book since high school when I reviewed some classic comics for English.
The book starts with action and continues right up to the end with interesting and well written twists and turns.
The story is about Jared Delaney, who at the age of nine, sees his parents bushwacked in Texas.
Years later, 1878, he ends up in Cimmarron, NM, looking for work as a cowboy. He gets caught in the middle of events, which he knows nothing about, makes some poor choices and, buy the book, read it and find out for yourself.
I enjoyed the book. It was well writtten, the action was exciting and the characters were believable.
I tell authors, that if I don’t like a book or don’t undestand it, I won’t review it because I might be wrong.
The purpose of my reviews is to hopefuly introduce one to books that might not have been heard about.
This is a fun book to read. You can google Jim Jones on the internet for ordering information………Bob Kisken

Married Into It  By Patricia Frolander

Patricia Frolander and her husband, Robert, moved, in 1969, from Denver to a cattle ranch in northeastern Wyoming. She was a city girl and he was from a ranching family. This book of poetry Married Into It, is published by High Plains Press in 2011 and is a result of her experiences.

The first three lines of the first poem Married Into It, expresses this criticism:

She’ll never last, too much city,

Don’t know how he stands it.

Imagine! She don’t know a heifer from a Hereford

The last five lines of the last poem:

Father When You Call

Or let me be sleeping in the old ranch house

Next to my partner

Whose gentle snores match my own

Arthritic hands joined

Horse – miles and hay- miles behind us

Despite it all, she stayed and I, for one, was glad.

Her poems cover topics known to all ranch families: Wyoming wind, mother-in-law criticism, area history, barbed wire, driving to town for supplies and then having to go back again for more, brandings, haying, and foreclosures and such.

She writes in a concise fashion and every time I read them, I find something new.

Excerpts from some of my favorites:

        Spring Training

Fencing time

Back, legs and arms quiver

As the post driver vibrates through my body

Muscles contract as I pull

Fence stretchers

splice wires parted by winter snows.

        Neighborhood watch

Coiffed salt and pepper

Silver grey, a blonde with brown roots,

Sit at the local cafe table for eight,

Discuss the rain, lousy coffee,

and Edna Mae’s cancer treatment.

Why I Stay is beautiful with 17 lines explaining why, read it!

Long Term Education is concise poem about what she has learned in 40 years.

New York To Deadwood is a poem about a man and woman who lived in a sod house for 14 years while he mined for gold. I have always thought that women had the harder life in sod house days which is why I love her last line “I left the sorry bastard”.

This is a book one can go back to time and time again. Thank you Mrs. Frolander.

Available from High Plains Press.

……..Bob Kisken


The Big Sky By and By By Ed Kemmick

A while back, I read a book by Ed Kemmick, The Big Sky By And By. It is a series of true tales about real people and strange times in the heart of Montana. It is a fun book to read, if you are from Montana or enjoy reading about Montana.

One of the articles is about Maryona Johnson, who ran a bordello in Miles City with Lyle “Wild Horse” Cunningham.

Since I have spent lots of time in Miles City I asked a friend of mine if he knew Lyle Cunningham.

My friend first encountered him singing songs like “The Open Book” and “The Castration of the Strawberry Roan” from a bar stool in the Bison Bar in Miles. Lyle was singing, not my friend, OH NO! Not my friend.

(These two poems were written by Curley Fletcher who also wrote The Strawberry Roan.

The following photos are allegedly believed to have been used as “houses of ill repute” in past history, but are now legitimate businesses.

1-North Platte, NE 2nd floor  2-Denver Market Street 3-Denver Market street, in back was speakeasy with brothel 4-North Platte, NE, 2nd floor

1-Cheyenne, WY 2-sign near Douglas, WY 3-Buffalo, WY 4-Buffalo, WY

1-Buffalo girls in backroom 2-Hotel Rex, Sheridan, WY 3-North Platte, NE

This got me to thinking as I am always looking for new projects. Also, my friend said real cowboys used to frequent brothels.

A lot of what I hear at gatherings, and read in cowboy magazines, tend to put them on too high a pedestal, so I have been taking photos of buildings that used to be brothels, sort of my contribution to balance. Enjoy and, if you know of others, please email me at

I an email you an interesting article on North Platte, if you want.

This is going to be an interesting project. I walked into a visitor’s center and asked if there were any bordellos in the town. The answer, I don’t know the name, as she reached for the phone book. I explained.

……..Bob Kisken



Cowpuncher Poetry, A Collection of Campfire Stories

Edited by Nancy Curtis


Cowpuncher Poetry is a small volume of 16 poems written by men and women who ranched, grew up on ranches, or had dreams of being a cowboy. All authors live in Wyoming.

The editor is Nancy Curtis of the High Plains Press in Glenda, Wyoming. The volume is illustrated by Abbie Montgomery Curent of Laramie. (Check out HighPlains Press on the internet)

As some of you know I was raised outside New York City, so am very pleased when I pick up poems that teach me about another way of life.

I don’t have the ability to use big and fancy words to write reviews, The best I can do it is to tell you that I like this and give some lines form the poems to show why. I think that people who have ranched will be able to identify with the poems.




                  The Old Timer

To many yesterdays have moved behind me;

Too few tomorrows showing up ahead.

Too many memories moving in to bind me

To things of long ago, and now long dead. 

                  Heelin’ Steers Is Easy

It’s easy as breathing, he said once again;

Anybody can heel an ol’ steer…

Just a matter of time, he said with a grin,

Anywhere from a day to ten years. 

                     Countin’ Cows

The boss comes ridin’ up to me

And with some nerve proposes he..

The next time let your old hourse count

We’ll probably get the right amount. 

                 To Be Or Not To Be – A Cowboy

I don’t have spurs that jingle

The way real cowboys do.

But I can break ice and feed the bulls

And I’ve killed a rattler or two

I hope you get what I mean. Get the book. If you enjoy it half as much as I do, you will be getting more than your monies worth.

High Plains Press

……..Bob Kisken

The Last Little Beaver (of the movies) by Donn J. Moyer

What does Little Beaver of Red Ryder movies and Shadowfox of Lord of the Rings have in common? The last Little Beaver and the trainer of Shadowfox are one and the same.

Recently, I received a book written by Donn J. Moyer about Don K. “Jug” Reynolds. The title, “The Last Little Beaver of the Movies”.

Mr. Reynolds has led an interesting life, appearing as Little Beaver in 1949, he was the last Little Beaver.

The book details his life as trick rider, roper, actor, rodeo participant, animal trainer (even reindeer), riding teacher to actors such as Tom Hanks in Forest Gump.

The book has over 150 photos which are of great interest to movie and rodeo buffs.

Charles Starrett, Ken Maynard, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Gabby Hayes, William Boyd, Monte Montana, Mickey Spillane, Casey Tibbs, are just a few o the stars he worked with.

The book is a fun book to read. It is available for $27 ppd, from Don Reynolds, 368 Hack St., Bowie, TX 76230. Mr. Reynolds will autograph it for you.

As an afterthought, the Red Ryder comic strip eneded in 1964. The Pagosa Springs, CO Sun still carries it. Is is the only newpaper to do so.

……..Bob Kisken


The Ramblin’s of a Young Old Man by Laurie Vanous

A few months ago, I drove to Fort Laramie to photograph it for Rope Burns. In a conversation about cowboy poets and other things, the ranger told me about Laurie Vanous, who was a security ranger at Fort Laramie.

Mr. Vanous had just written a 79 page book which was going to be sold the next day. It is filled with many stories and poems about his experiences.

Growing up on a ranch and where they used nothing but horses until he as 11 probably would give him enough material for another full length book.

He has been, among other things, a cowboy, a Vietnam Vet, bullfighter, rodeo clown, bucking horse rider, park ranger, mountain man, movie stuntman, performer in old west shows with the Colorado and Free Range Regulators.

He writes that he has 20 different hats hung up in his house with a different outfit for each hat.

He will be in Casper, WY, the 12th through the 14th of June at the Trails Center with his tipis. I will be there to see him and meet him. We will keep you posted as to where he will perform next.

He ends one of his poems thusly:

“And someday when we finally get old

The stories we can tell

We hope our grandkids know when we die

We’re not going straight to hell”

Al I know is that wherever he goes, I hope he keeps on telling stories.

It is a fun book to read and people interested in getting a copy can email him at

……..Bob Kisken


Montana 1894-1928 “The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron”                               by Donna M. Lucey

In 1978, Donna Lucey was able to contact and meet JanetWilliams (then 95) in Terry, MT. Janet had come to Terry to homestead in 1907.

While homesteading Jane met Evelyn and Ewen Cameron, who came to Montana from England. When the widow Evelyn died, Janet inherited all of Evelyn’s ranch and belongings.

When Donna Lucey gained Janet Williams trust, she discovered Evelyn’s diaries and glass plate negatives.

Using these, she produced a book which details in prose and photographs a book “Photographing Montana 1894-1928” The life and work of Evelyn Cameron,

It is a book that I believe everyone interested in the early 20th Century photography or Montana history should be without.

……..Bob Kisken

The Modern Cowboy by John Erickson

John Erickson has written two editions of the Modern Cowboy. This book is one of seven written by him in the Western Life Series which were published by the University of North Texas Press, located in Denton, TX. His wife, Kristine C. Erickson, provided the photographs for the books.

The book is divided into four parts (1) The modern cowboy in which he attempts to answer what is a cowboy. He does this by describing he cowboy now and in the past (2) Tools of the trade (3) What cowboys do. I wish that I had read this book before I moved to ranching country. I probably would have paid more attention to details.

Mr. Erickson is the creator of Hank the Cowdog Series. which he writes at the start and allowed him to put together the ranch he now owns. Right off the bat, I was impressed by his honesty.

Mr. Erickson is a fifth generation Texan and has been a cowboy, farmhand, handyman and ranch owner.

His book, The Modern Cowboy, attempts to answer the question: “What is a Cowboy?” and also explains some of the problem ranchers face. He does a credible job. The book is worth reading .

In answering the “What is a Cowboy” question, he covers topics such as what the cowboy wears, the cowboy’s wife, horse sense and cowsense even his vices. He also goes through each part of the year with a great description of the cowboy’s job during each season.

As a fan of windmills, I appreciate his chapter on windmills.

Mr. Erickson not only explains his era, but goes back in time and slows how cowboying has changed. He has done his homework.

In the last section, he confronts some of the issues that face the rancher (1) the safety issue such as the chemical residue on non-organic beef and other issues which effect the bottom line.

He writes that he suspects that “disdain of the beef is actually a subtle form of activism, and may have little or nothing to do with the social activism.” I wish the would have spent more time on this as it is an interesting argument.

I think his statement toward the end of the book answers the question “Will there always be cowboys, I imagine, that if thee are cows to be punched in the year 3000, they will still be around.”

Thanks, Mr. Erickson for the book.

If my review seems naive in part, remember that I spent my formulative years (65) in Michigan and New York. I’ve only been in South Dakota and Wyoming for about 15 years.

………Bob Kisken


Pardner Of The Wind by N. Howard (Jack) Thorp (in collaboration with Neil M. Clark)

Jack Thorp is the author of Little Joe The Wrangler. If this had been his only contribution to cowboy song and poetry, his legacy would have been assured.

Fortunately for us, two books of his are still available: Pardner of the Wind and Songs of the Cowboys.

In 1889, he was the first to collect cowboy songs, which were eventually published by himself and later in Songs of the Cowboys.

The first chapter in Partners in the Wind, entitled Banjo in the Cowboy Camps, tells of how and why he started to collect them.

The rest of he book covers his experiences on the range: horses, cowboy humor, chuck and gear, Billy the Kid, an excellent description of the cowboys’ duties on the open range plus other topics. It is an excellent and informative book.

……..Bob Kisken

Song Of The Cowboys by Jack Thorp

Songs of the Cowboys was copyrighted by Jack Thorp in 1908. Some of the songs were written by Jack and others were collected by him.

One could consider these songs an oral history of early cowboy life; for example

1) The bawl of a steer

To a cowboy’s ear

Is music of sweetest strain;

And the yelping notes

Of the gray coyotes

To him are a glad refrain.

2) Now I reckon your stomach would grow to your back

If it wasn’t for the cook that keeps fillin’ the slack;

With the beans in the box and the pork in the tub,

I’m a wonderin’ now, who would fill you with grub.

3) I’ve rid a pitchin bronco till the sky was underneath;

I’ve tackled every desert in the land;

I’ve sampled four X whiskey till I couldn’t hardly see

And I’ve dallied with the quicksands of the Grand.

4) I struck the trail in seventy-nine,

The herd strung out behind me;

As I jogged along my mind ran back

For the gal I left behind me.

That sweet little gal, that true little gal,

The gal I left behind me!

You get the idea. It is a fun book to read and give an idea of what early cowboy songs were like.

Two other books should be mentioned, The Hell-Bound Train, A Cowboy Songbook, compiled by Glenn Ohrlin (one of my favorite performers) and The Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing and other songs cowboy sing, compiled by Guy Logsdon. All three books are available and can be purchased on Amazon.

….REVIEWER NOTES: I wish that some cowboy fests would have a jam session that would only allow songs from one or all of these three books to be sung. There are 2 festivals that I have attended that do something like this 1-At Devil’s Tower, only people who ranched can be performers 2-At the cowboy fest in Cody, WY, Bob Lantos conducts a jam session at the Irma hotel where only cowboy songs are sung, preferably old time cowboy songs  I am not suggesting one is better than the other, but I think more emphasis should be placed on the songs that started the thing off.

……..Bob Kisken



Butch Cassidy, My Uncle 

by Bill Betenson

Bill Betenson has done one heck of a job in his book, Butch Cassidy, My Uncle, which was published by High Plains Press of Glendo, WY.

Mr. Betenson has done a lot of research and I am impressed by his descriptions of the various robberies Butch engaged in.

A lot of things stand out, but I will just share a few.

1) According to the book, Butch robbed a bank in Montpelier, ID (1896) to get money to hire a lawyer for a friend who was charged with a crime. An interesting concept to say the least.

2) In the chapter on the Folsom Train Robbery and the capture of Elzy Lay, I got the opinion that the good guys don’t always shoot straight.

3) In one episode a ride on horseback of 400 miles was made in three days. When I read histories such as this I am always amazed at the distances traveled.

4) The famous photo known as the “Fort Worth Five” included Will Carver, Harvey Logan, Sundance Kid, Ben Kilpatrick and Butch Cassidy. A policeman recognized Harvey Logan when he saw a copy of the photo. He notified the Pinkertons who sent out 15,000 Wanted circulars.

5) Butch, Sundance Kid and Etta Place, who was either a teacher from Denver of a prostitute from San Antonio, vacationed in New York before they went to Argentina. The Pinkertons (unlucky or incompetent) were livid not to have captured them.

6) On Nov. 6, 1908, the police in San Vicente, Bolivia killed 2 men in a shoot out. It has been claimed that these two men were Sundance and Butch. The author does a credible job of showing that Butch was not one of them and that he came back to America to live.

I suppose that this question will always have people on both sides. Mr. Betenson’s arguments are strong. Read it and make up your own mind. You will not be disappointed.

……..Bob Kisken


Sheepwagon Home On The Range    by Nancy Weidel

Early in the book, Sheepwagon Home On The Range, the author Nancy Weidel, writes this, “The history of western sheep ranching has been for the most ignored. Yet, it is a dramatic story and much like cattle ranching, features heroic feats by men and animals played against the grand and often fierce elements of the land, water and weather.”

The author does an excellent job of trying to rectify this. She busts myths, brings forth some unknown or little known facts (at least to this writer) and loads the book with great photos taken over a long period of time.

Having been raised in New York, the only thing I knew about sheep was that it tasted great. My mother would cook a leg of lamb on special occasions, best meat I ever tasted.

No Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, Gene Autry, or the Lone Ranger, who was a sheepherder to save the country from evil, rescue the damsel in distress and ride off into the sunset, but lets’ get back to the real world.

The book is laid out into four parts: 1-the story 2-the wagon 3-the herding life and 4-the legacy.

There is a diagram of the sheep trails where sheep were driven west to east. Typically three men herded a band of between 2500 to 5000 sheep on a drive that could take two years.

The author does an excellent job describing the history and use of the sheepwagon. According to Wool Growers Association of Wyoming, sheep wagons are still being used.

Ms Weidel covers such topics as range wards between the cattlemen and the sheepmen, women sheepherders, the duties of the herders, the Basques and other nationalities, the myth that all sheepherder were loners, crazy and drunks.

She has a list of books in the bibliography which will help me in furthering my knowledge of the sheep industry.

You can google High Plains Press to purchase the book. This Press is located in Glendo, Wyoming, and has been publishing book son the west for 25 years.

……..Bob Kisken


Cowboy Poems From Mona Flatts  by Scott Redington

A few years ago, I bought a book at the Sheridan, WY library titled Cowboy Poems From Mona Flatts by Scott Redington. A 66 page book of poems and some prose the author accomplishes quite a bit. It is a good read.

Mr. Redington, who is long deceased, describes himself as a Cowboy and western humorist. He writes that “his father”, who spent nearly 100 years in Wyoming, always wanted to be a Cowboy, but was too busy raising cattle and breaking colts to ever learn.

This is one trait of cowboys I enjoy, they can laugh at themselves.

He makes a good argument that the first cowboys in the west were the American Indians, also by including Chief Joseph’s famous surrender speech and a translation of an ancient Arapaho invocation he rightfully claims that they were poets too.

His poem, The Madonna Of The Plains, expresses the belief that I have held for years that early women homesteaders had it tougher than the men.

Parson William’s Mule is as humorous a poem as I have read.

Some of it is corn, but I happen to love corn.

        To His Former Wife

She’s a great little housekeeper, the Cowboy said

In a voice strong and sublime,

She’s been divorced three time so far

And kept the house every time.

About his poem about Halloween, he explains why it qualifies as a cowboy poem.

1) It is written about animals

2) It was written by a Cowboy

3) It is a poem as the lines rhyme

4) It was written down originally on a napkin, in a bar, somewhere in the West.

…..Sounds good to me

About his poem, The Old Big Horn Church, he writes

One day, it will give way

To a supermarket or a

Parking lot, and another

Piece of America will

Have been lost.

……A common theme unfortunately.

His one poem, The Last Bull Ride, won first place in the Wrangler Cowboy Poetry Contest in 1986.

I could go on and on, but I don’t want my review to be longer than the book.

Printed in 1989, it is still available as a used book on Amazon. It is a good read.

……..Bob Kisken

Kell Robertson     A Horse Called Desperation

A while back I was reading Maverick Western Verse edited by John. C. Dofflemeyer. In it, was a poem by Kell Robertson “The Old Man Goes Home“. This poem, Wally McCrae’s, “Things of Intrinsic Worth” and Mrs Bernice Lander’s “The Homesteaders“, gave their view of what is happening in rural areas.

.Poems would make a great introduction to a photographic essay.

I ordered a used copy of Mr. Robertson’s book of poems entitled “A Horse Called Desperation“. I could not find new copies of any of his books so I guess that they are out of print.


Lawrence Ferlinghetti refers to him as “one fine cowboy poet” and John C. Dofflemeyer saw fit to include him in his anthology. These two give him standing as a cowboy poet. (whatever that is).

I have read some polyanna pablum which is considered cowboy poetry. This book is not that.

All I can do is quote some lines from his poems which I hope will explain why I like it as much as I do.


All six police cars, the county sheriff

reminding you with a hand painted sign

to re-elect him, and maybe thirteen

cars containing politicians and

businessmen (decorated with crepe

paper) and pretty ladies who are queens

and princesses of something


In Sante Fe, I saw a policeman

take a bottle from a sleeping wino

and pour it in his face


Ken Maynard, a real cowboy

who did his own stunts

a little pot bellied

from the back of his great horse, Tarzan

ended up

in a tiny trailer

outside Bakersfield, California

died, the paper said

of malnutrition.


Jesse James was a son-of-a-bitch

Wyatt Earp was a son-of-a-bitch

of a different kind

even worse

made money killing people

for the great white machine

that built the churches

the schools

The book is A Horse Called Desperation, selected poems by Kell Robetson published by Aspermont Press (San Francisco) Copyright 1995

……..Bob Kisken


My Farm Friends by Jennifer Dewing

Many Americans have become familiar with the popular concept “farm to table”. But, are they familiar with the idea of “farm to bookshelf”?Children’s personalized book and gift company, I See Me!,  just “hatched” its latest personalized book, My Farm Friends, and is hoping the title makes it to bookshelves all across America!
My Farm Friends is an adorable personalized board book in which young readers become the central character (farmer) on their very own farm! According to author Jennifer Dewing, “In the storybook, the child delights in learning all about the different animals that live on the farm and discovering the sound each makes.”
My Farm Friends features bright and engaging illustrations from artist Laura Watson and comes personalized with a child’s name and photo throughout the story. Although the story is highly customized and made especially for the child, customers can order it within minutes on and it will be delivered within two weeks time (standard, US delivery). Gift givers can also include a printed dedication in the beginning of the storybook to make it extra special.
Aside from the My Farm Friends personalized storybook, also offers coordinating My Farm Friends personalized gifts, including a sticker sheet, placemat, puzzle and lunch box. Customers can order at or call customer service at 1.877.744.3210. Prices vary depending on the item ordered. 


Homegrown and Other Poems by Bryce Burnett

Last year, at the Lewistown, MT, Gathering, Bryce Burnett recited one of my favorite poems “The One Room School House On The Prairie”. This year, he had his newly published book of poems entitled “Homegrown and Other Poems”.

Bryce is a rancher, who lives southwest of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, partially on land homesteaded by his grandfathering in 1908.

It is evident by his poems that he loves his heritage, and and what he does. It can’t get any better than that.

I guess I must be a prairie dweller wannabee as I enjoy poetry, prose, paintings and photography about the prairies. Bryce’s book, with its poetry and photos, fills the need I have.

His topics are varied such as “Blister, The Man Who Never Shows Up Until The Work is Done”, “Moose Hunting”, with its surprise ending, “Old Wooden Grain Elevators”, I love to photograph these as I wander in the country.

It is great to read how he writes about family

“Drugs”, read it and a different take on the word, “Saturday Night in Town”, “Aging”, but the older we get, we realize it takes longer to rest up than it did to get tired. Observations like this are spread among his poems.

“Have You Been There” sums up his love for place and family quite well.

I hope I have wet your whistle, the book is well worth it.

To purchase the book, call 1-800-929-2097, or, or

……..Bob Kisken

Women Drummers: A History From Rock and Jazz To Blues And Country by Angela Smith

            When it comes to making music, women have proven time and time again they have the talent and skills to match their male counterparts.  But playing the drums?  Are women really up to it?  Writer and working musician Angela Smith will have readers of WOMEN DRUMMERS: A HISTORY FROM ROCK AND JAZZ TO BLUES AND COUNTRY responding with a resounding “yes!” From the dawn of history when women ruled as the primary percussionists to today’s modern pop and rock culture, here’s a book that takes you on a whirlwind tour of the energetic genius of the greatest women drummers of the last eight decades and their continuing struggle to break the barriers of this all-too-male field.

Of special interest to ROPEBURN readers is the section titled “Honky Tonk Angels” devoted to women drummers in country music.  The author gives an overview of women in country music – in both song and on stage – and then proceeds to recognize some of the outstanding talent of women drummers in this genre, including, among others, Irlene Mandrell, Nancy Given Prout, Jyn Yates, Lisa Romeo, Lisa Pankratz, Michelle Josef, and Karen Biller, who’s quoted: “The country drummer’s job is to keep time, know how to play a killer country shuffle, have a great groove, and make people dance.”

For anyone interested in music history, this should be required reading.  For everyone else, WOMEN DRUMMERS is just a great book that’s fun to read. The book is available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble or local booksellers in both hard cover and e-book editions

Steering With My Knees

by Paul Zarzyski 

Paul Zarzyski has an interesting mind. All one has to do is to read some of his poems to see this.

Born and raised in Hurley, Wisconsin, he received his MFA from the University of Montana, rode broncs for 15 years, and now calls himself a rodeo poet. He says he is not a cowboy poet because he was never a cowboy. He now lives in Montana (go to for more information and to see some of his poetry).

His latest book, “Steering With My Knees,” is a compilation of “lite” poems, including more than forty new poems as well as a selection of some of his personal favorites written over the years. The title comes from his poem “Monte Carlo Express—Post Office Box 258, 15.3 Miles Home.” How’s that for a title?

The third poem in the collection “Hurley High” starts with these two lines: “Though the nuns had dubbed us crusaders / in the war against puberty….” For me those two lines made the book worth buying.

There are lines that are gems; read too fast and you will miss them. For example, in “The Car That Brought You Here Still Runs,” he writes this about Malta: “big city with its 5 p.m. rush minute….” Wow!!

In “The Whale in My Wallet,” he goes from whales to Polish-Italian hit men to Charlie, the Talking Tuna in 26 lines…and it makes sense.

In “A Lesson in Animal Zen,” he compares a herd of calves trying to get in a single file as “doing their best worst / impersonation of duodenal colic, gall / stone pile-up in the bile duct….”

Where does he come up with this stuff? I said something at the start about his mind.

You can tell I like his poems. I also consider him a friend.

He is even better in person when he shares his poetry. Anyway, get his book and sit down for hours of enjoyment.

Available at, Barnes and, and Montana’s independent bookstores.

……..Bob Kisken


Bringing Sundance Home  by Jerry Nickle

Many books have been written about the Sundance Kid. A new one by Jerry Nickle as told to C.J, Del Barto was released in 2013.

The book “Bringing Sundance Home”, subtitled “The Real Sundance Kid – My Great Grandfather”.

I met the author, Jerry Nickle at the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival. Mr Nickle, who claims the Sundance Kid was his great grandfather, attempts to prove who the Sundance Kid really was.

I have always been impressed by writers who attempt to make sense out of old events using historical records. I think Mr. Nickle does a credible job of proving his thesis.

I will not explain what his thesis is, but will happily let the reader make his own judgement.  Some of the old historical photos are fun to look at.

For anyone interested in the era of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, this would be a good book to read.  For more info go to or it is available from Amazon,

….Bob Kisken

A Cowboy’s Guide To Growing Up Right

—– By Slim Randles

 ALBUQUERQUE, NM-Slim Randles wins National Federation of Press Women Award for “A Cowboy’s Guide To Growing Up Right “.

The National Federation of Press Women has announced that Slim Randles of Albuquerque has received the 1st Place Award in the Inspirational Book Category for the 2012 NFPW Book Awards. “A Cowboy’s Guide To Growing Up Right”, published by LPD Press/Rio Grande Books of Los Ranchos New Mexico,  is Slim Randles’ sixth book. The award will be presented to Slim at the NFPW awards banquet in late September in Scottsdale, AZ. Slim also won 1st Place for the book in the 2011 New Mexico Book Awards and 2012 New Mexico Press Women Communications Contest.

The book is also illustrated by Jerry Montoya of Grants, New Mexico, who is an award-winning artist, founder of La Fiesta de Colores in Grants, and exhibits in Contemporary Hispanic Market in Santa Fe every July.

This is the first win by Randles in the National Federation of Press Women competition. Randles recently released “Home Country” – a collection of his esays.

Loretta Hall, also an author with LPD Press/Rio Grande Books, won the 3rd Place General Nonfiction Book Award in the same NFPW competition for her new book “Out of This World”, the space history in New Mexico.

Go to their website, for times. Both books are on and carried by local stores. For information: 505/344-9382. Or go to


“The Oldest Greenhorn”  

          by Larry W. Jones

Larry W. Jones, the Kingwood Kowboy, had just turned sixty eight when he participated as a wrangler in the 40th annual Sombrero Ranches “Great American Horse Drive”, the oldest and biggest of its kind in the whole country. Each year, on the first weekend in May, Sombrero Ranches, the biggest saddle horse operator in the US, rounds up 800 – 1000 horses from their winter pastures in far northwest Colorado and drives them sixty two miles in two days, to the Big Gulch Ranch, west of Craig. There they receive new shoes, medical care, and are sorted and trucked to the many tourist stables which Sombrero Ranches operates in Colorado and Arizona.

The “Great American Horse Drive” is an adventure never to be forgotten and cries out to be written about. “The Oldest Greenhorn”, 8 X 11 coffee-table size book, contains eighty pages with full color photos and nine of Larry’s cowboy song lyrics. It relates the history of Sombrero Ranches and the horse drive. It dramatizes the five day adventure from arrival to the exciting “Gate-to-Gate” horse drive on Saturday and Sunday. Read the thrilling account of the “Mad Dash to the Yampa River”, driving the horses through Maybell Colorado, and “The Last Mile” in the hazardous ditches at full gallop. Larry W. Jones, the Kingwood Kowboy, earned his “Gate-to-Gate” trophy belt buckle the hard way – in the saddle of a fiery red quarterhorse that proved what the term “prancing horse” really means!

“The Oldest Greenhorn” is available in Hardcover and Paperback editions. Hardcover – $36.00;; Paperback – $26.50;


WEST   by Lars Strandberg, Lars Åberg & Ronnie Nilsson

WEST is a remarkable coffee table book offering a compendium of what is created and born…intentionally and not…just from being there.  It could be revealing of the intent here that the book is simply called “WEST.”  More than a place, it’s the reason, result and reward for turning an exploring eye in that direction.

Three Swedish devotees of The West offer a uniquely perceptive and querying look at something we may not know as well as we think we do.  They accomplish the astonishing task through text (Åberg), photos (Strandberg) and artful design (Nilsson).  At first the eccentric randomness of the approach may seem like skipping stones across a pond’s surface, but it’s soon obvious this trio realizes there’s a far deeper pool beneath as they swim and dive in their subject and the people of it.  Along the way you’ll experience strong splashes of ethos against mythos since from “WEST” we get the surface shimmer and the bottom grit.  Yet we love it.

Artists who “paint” in visual, aural or printed media should keep this book close at hand.  From such stimuli the creative eye will repeatedly create on its own.  Book (hardbound):  $45 thru

– by Rick Huff


Wagon Train: The Television Series

——James Rosin        

The Autumn Road Company Publishers

The Wagon Train TV series ran for 8 seasons (1957-65), with some twenty to thirty million people watching each episode. If you were one of them, you’ll love this book’s story, remembering the series and what went on behind the scenes. The show wasn’t a musical western, although one of the interesting facts about it was that, over its duration, it used four different themes!

The book first came out in 2008, but it was revised (to accommodate a number of additional photos) and issued in soft cover in 2012. The author organized the book around interviews with a large number of actors who appeared in the series, bios of those who acted or were involved in production, and the titles and summaries of each episode. Stars such as Harry Carey, Jr., Robert Horton, L.Q. Jones, Debra Paget, Denny “Scott” Miller, Ernest Borgnine and others were interviewed. The author  has even included a list of the audience’s favorite episodes by season. To top it off, the 326 page book also has over 100 pages of photographs, many of which are rare.

This will make a fine companion to the DVD set released by Timeless Media. If you don’t have the DVD set, there’s a section that tells you where to find it, and other sets that may be of interest. The book is available from and…….O.J. Sikes


Bar E Ranch Chuckwagon Cookbook by Tom Elliott

Born out of 19th-century cattle drives, the chuckwagon is both utilitarian and nostalgic. The meals that were prepared and served at the wagon weren’t fancy, yet they were as diverse as the Western landscape and the cowboys on the crew. Tom and Cheryle Elliott preserve and perpetuate the history of the chuckwagon and authentic cowboy grub in their Bar E Ranch Chuckwagon Cookbook. The old-time recipes are simple and combine ingredients that are staples in most pantries, but they yield filling, flavorful, homestyle meals that will bring your crew back for seconds. A bonus: The Elliotts offer tips for cooking in Dutch ovens, recipes and rations from Old West army cooking manuals, a handy chart for cooking for large groups and other trivia.  $20.00 plus $7.00 shipping. Can be ordered from our web site at or 1-800-959-5782…….Jennifer Denison, Senior Editor and Cowboy Style Editor, Western Horseman Magazine


The Touch of Roy & Dale  By  Tricia Spencer

West Quest

    The full title of this new book, The Touch of Roy and Dale: The Impact and Influence of Roy Rogers, the King of the Cowboys, and Dale Evans, the Queen of the West, as Only Their Fans Could Tell It, summarizes its contents.  The staggering amount of fan mail Roy Rogers and Dale Evans received is part of Hollywood history. Those cards and letter weren’t simply requests for autographed photos. They contained the experience and feelings of the writers, who were  often  influenced by Roy & Dale. The fans knew Roy’s and Dale’s personal stories and felt close enough to them that they  wanted to tell them theirs.

Writer Tricia Spencer spent years reading stacks of correspondence (40,000 pieces of mail) and extracting fans’ stories for publication of this new book. In the process, she discovered previously unpublished photographs, art, stories and even songs!  Cheryl Rogers-Barnett wrote the Foreword, and Roy “Dusty” Rogers, Jr. wrote a note for the book’s cover in tribute to the fans who supported Roy & Dale throughout their career. In addition to the fan letters, the book contains notes and essays from other family members and friends, some famous (co-stars and stuntmen), some not, but all interesting to read.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit The Happy Trails Children’s Foundation. The book is available from and…….O.J. Sikes


Threads West by Reid Lance Rosenthal 

Douglas, Wyoming – March 27, 2012 – Though there is a plethora of non-fiction writings on various aspects of America’s surging rediscovery of patriotism and appreciation for core American ideals, there are few if any, current fiction works which embody the foundational essence of the resurgence. The #1 best-seller, national award-winning Threads West, An American Saga series, a sixteen book series, does just that! It is our story. It is Reid Lance Rosenthal’s tale of America and her spirit. It is the ongoing story of us. Book One – Threads West melted down Amazon at 9:07am the day of its release and likewise sold out Barnes and Noble the very morning of that release! Book Two of the series, Maps of Fate, releases nationally April 17, 2012. 20,000 copies are already reserved. The series has been called “the Gone With the Wind of the American West” and compared to Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove and James Michener’s Centennial.
This makes the month of March the perfect time to introduce you to Reid.  A cowboy at heart, a rancher by trade, and a writer by nature, his Historical Western Romance series glows with American spirit and sizzles with the quick and humorous intrigue and passion we all want to curl up with on blustery spring evenings. A veteran of more than one hundred radio and TV appearances of up to three hours (many repeats) and subject of scores of articles in newspapers, magazines,, IVillage ezines and others, Reid is handsome, charming, and outspoken. His very unique personal style will spark your audience and provide them with a guest to remember.
Maps of Fate is a novel unique to Reid’s cowboy heart and poet’s pen. Fueled by the powerful magnetic pull of the energy of the vast lands of the American West, the characters of these adventures have neither country nor culture in common—each comes from a different background, but the lives of their textured and conflicted experiences become part of the fabric of America and the West. Their interwoven destinies, ambitions, courage, treachery and love flow through four generations; creating an American epic that binds the historical characters to the predestined struggles, torrid passions and duplicities of their descendants. The intrigue and unrelenting conflict of their lives are destined to converge with startling twists and turns as they build a great nation. Reid’s gifted writing interweaves the destinies, ambitions, courage and treachery of these men and women with an emerging America in an exhilarating read, evoking every imaginable emotion.
“Many have asked what inspires me to write the Threads West series,” Reid says. “I am fascinated with the interrelated energies of all things. The more primal the current, the greater my interest. In the wide range of tugs to the human soul, nothing compares to the power of the land which underlies all we are and do, and the pull on our heart strings of passion-filled romance.
“These magnets to our spirits, coupled with the rich texture of the mid eighteen fifties–a time when America and the world drew their collective breaths, and then exhaled with a rush towards the American West–is our story. It is a memory we need to recall, courage we need to again touch and a reminder of the foundations of our uniquely American spirit: A touchstone to the past and a guide post to the future in these uncertain times.”
A fourth generation land-and-cattleman, Reid bought his first property at eighteen, and has succumbed to the pull of the land ever since. In addition to his success in historical fiction, he is working on a nonfiction book created especially for the descendants of the passionate Americans he writes about in his novels. Land: For Love and Money and the associated workbook Green for Green is a humorous, informative and helpful guide packed with anecdotes from Reid’s forty-year, $1 billion career in land management. His experiences in ranches, farms and rural property acquisition, to planning, improving, conservation easement grants, and disposition in numerous states, three countries and two continents, will provide his readers with a wealth of tips and advice on buying and managing that most precious American right and resource.
Maps of Fate, the second book in the Threads West, An American Saga series, is scheduled for release on April 17, 2012. Volume one of Land for Love and Money will be released on June 5, 2012. Both will be available from Barnes & Noble (in store and online) Amazon and Hastings, in addition to other retail outlets.
Please see


“Perfectly Amanda (Gunsmoke’s ‘Miss Kitty’) To Dodge  and Beyond”  By Beckey Burgoyne

 Here is THE book on the Queen of Gunsmoke.  Covered in an easy to digest, segmented fashion are her early years, early film and TV work, many new facts and facetsof life on the Gunsmoke set and on to her intense animal activism and other  causes.  A lot of it was tough going, personally and professionally, particularly the last years.  But she had, as so many of her friends and fellow actors state here, the same grit and heart as her famous character “MissKitty.”

If the writing style feels at times more like fan blogging than reportage, what of it??
We’re all reading it for the same reason, aren’t we?  We loved the lady.  My mentor in Western Hi Busse sure did.  His group The Frontiersmen & Joanie backed the Gunsmoke folk in every appearance.  Burgoyne quotes Joanie Hall in the touring segment.  Ironically the Introduction to this book was written by the granddaughter of “Cactus Mack” McPeters, cousin to Glenn Strange (Gunsmoke’s Sam The Bartender) and Rex Allen.  Hi Busse was also a member of The Saddle Tramps, with whom “Cactus”recorded many radio transcriptions in the 1930s. It’s a good reference and a fond trip back on many levels.  What more can you ask? Book (Trade Paperback):  $29.95 through Five Star Publications (but  also available on disc) at ……..Rick Huff

Baxter Black “Lessons From A Desperado Poet”    (TwoDot) 

This volume may eventually rank as one of the best self-help books ever turned out.   And that turned out doesn’t mean “in the pasture.”  It should prove to be particularly relevant for pull yourself up by the bootstrappers like us! Here our esteemed Cowboy Poet humorist charts his life’s course from po’ to vet, then from pro vet to poet.  Or, as the book jacket tells you, “how to find your way when you don’t have a map, how to win the game when you don’t know the rules and when someone says it can’t be done what they really mean is they can’t do it.”  Dotted through the good-humored and humorous text are 118 delineated life lessons that should be memorized by every student or student of life.  By personal example Baxter shows you how to keep from steppin’ in it or, at least, how to grow something in it if you do. “Lessons…” is loaded with them and it features historic personal photos and great true stories from one of the master story tellers of our time.  If you don’t buythis book from being told that, then I guess you didn’t learn your lesson!  Book (hardcover):  $22.95 and generally available……Rick Huff


How the West was sung: Music in the Westerns of John Ford

by   Kathryn Kalinak  (University of California Press 2007)        

       I found this book absolutely fascinating. The author’s thesis is that “the preponderance of song is one of the most distinctive features of Ford’s imprint on the genre.” And she defends her thesis admirably. At the outset, she addresses Ford’s participation in the selection of music for his films, tracing his interest back to his roots and linking it to his fondness for the folk songs and hymns found frequently in his productions. But it wasn’t simply his fondness for this type of music that led to its inclusion in his films. She points out that “Songs authenticate historical era and geographic place, and contribute to narrative trajectory (and) character development.” She also explains how Ford used music to support the ideology he wanted to convey in his work. The author explains the difference between diegetic music, “heard by the characters and often with a source visible on screen” – and non-diegetic music, i.e. music“heard by the audience but inaudible to the film’s characters.” And she goes through each of Ford’s films, devoting separate chapters to some of them, illustrating out how he carefully selected songs for each scene so as to convey the messages (and feeling) he was looking for. For Ford, music was important for the impact he wanted his films to have on the audience.  You will find all of it interesting, but fans of Stagecoach, Wagonmaster, Ford’s cavalry films and The Searchers will find the chapters on these films to be especially revealing. I found at least one mistake, but in a book filled with so many details, that’s to be expected. Available in paperback and hard cover editions online, but prices vary widely, so shop around, e.g. try………O.J. Sikes

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Review – Paul S. Powers   “Riding The Pulp Trail     (Laurie Powers, editor)

Writer/editor Laurie Powers has offered a multi-level entertainment  in issuing here the works, published and unpublished, of her successful pulp  Western writer grandpa Paul.  Not  only can we relive some of “those thrilling days of yesteryear” when heroes and  villains were easy to spot, but the writers among us get a developmental look at  an author’s efforts to get more than just the same formulaic stories  accepted.

Paul Powers cranked out new stories weekly for Wild West Weekly and  other cowboy action mills aimed at the bug-eyed youth market, and he worked the  genre masterfully.  In this handsome  collection are six published and six non-published stories, all with plenty of  blazing action and “good overcomes evil” endings.  Powers’ popular misunderstood force for  good Sonny Tabor rides again in a story not issued before, and there are more  favorite tales and new discoveries to be made.  The pulps were definitely part of the  popularization of the cowboy to audiences the world over, and this volume lets  us experience again the unabashed romance of it.  Well worth your time.  Book (paperback):  $24.95 through….– by Rick  Huff


Still Lovin’ The Ride: The Janet McBride Story 

 by Mary Neal Schutz

 ‘Still Lovin’ the Ride’ is the biography of The Yodelin’ Queen Janet McBride who performed with some of country music’s legendary performers in the 1960’s. Born in Maine in 1934, by the time she was 6 years old it was obvious that Janet was born to sing. At 8 years of age Janet discovered the unique sound of yodelling and knew this was the musical trail that she would walk.

Janet’s life is a heartfelt story filled with hard times, tragic circumstances, happiness and laughter, written by Mary Neal Schutz and Janet McBride. Janet tells of humble beginnings living in Maine, New England where her father worked (amongst other jobs) in a local shoe factory. The family move to California to find a better life and then back to Maine and California once again as expectations didn’t come to realization.

In the mid 1950’s Janet meets and marries sailor Claude McBride to whom she has three children. The good looking Claudeturns out to be a womaniser and always looking for the good time, dinking and womanising and ‘not’ spending enough time raising his family.. Janet leaves the music industry to bring up her children and with Claude’s sudden death from a heart attack Janet finds relief from a poor marriage. True love and a long happy marriage finally comes Janet’s way in the form of Mr John Ingram. Together they go into partnership in the Mesquite Opry theatre and Janet thrives in coaching youngsters in stage craft and of course yodelling. One of those kids that Janet coached was a seven year old LeAnn Rimes, who went on to be a world-wide renowned singing super-star.

Although Janet & John sold the Mesquite Opry theatre, Janet still carries the passion and is involved along with Devon Dawson in the mentoring of boys and girls 17years and under at the Buckaroo Club in the Cowtown Opry, Fort Worth, Texas that meets on the 2nd Sunday of each month. Reading ‘Still Lovin’ the Ride’ you get the feeling that Janet believes this is the reason she was given her great talent…devoting her time and dedication in aiding young performers on the road to stardom.‘Still Lovin’ the Ride’ is a real life story full of struggle, tragedy, sadness, great effort, fun, happiness and Love!!!  I took great pleasure in reading this book during a flight back from the USA. It is a book that you will not want to put down!!!.  Cost is $20 plus $3 postage in USA.  They can order  by contacting me at use Pay Pal at their site using that email address  or send check or money order for $23 to me at P. O. Box  850351, Mesquite, TX 75185-0351…….Graham Lees


Review – Slim Randles  “A Cowboy’s Guide To Growing Up Right” 

You could think of it as being Winning Friends & Influencing Peopleby Dale “Cow”negie…but I wish you wouldn’t! This engaging little book of personal experiences and insights doesn’t harp or lecture.  It just offers humorous thoughts and practical practices that have come in handy for Randles as he’s ridden down his own trail of maturing.  And as those of us who champion The Cowboy Way have been saying for many years, the cowboy way ain’t a bad way!  You might discover someof his common sense chapter titles are still pretty surprising.  Try “Lie To Yourself Now & Then!” (he explains it), “To Think Right First Straighten Your Shoes” (there’s a reason) or “Out Of A Job?  Give Your Work Away!” (there’s a darn good reason)!   Also here you’ll find “Ride For The Brand,” “Find A Mentor,” “Find A Passion,” “Pick Your Friends Before They Pick You” and more that can, when properly applied, chiselgood character.  Randles waited quite a few years before showing the text to anyone, but once it was seen he was encouraged to release it.  You’ll be glad he did.  Book: $8.95 + $ s/h through ……by Rick Huff

Review – Baxter Black (w/illustrations by Bill Patterson)  “Rudolph’s Night Off”   (book/dvd)  

Twas the mail before Christmas and what should be in it

But a big book from Baxter at the very last minute!

Rudolph’s gone lame and Santy is vexed

So a goat full of radium winds up being next

To get harnassed up.
With artwork so vibrant

This Baxter Black verse on St. Nick and his migrant

Team does shine brightly, in more ways than one.

The DVD with it is also great fun!

As you might expect it’s a wacky delight

With one small surprise.  It’s a gas-powered flight!

So pick up a copy.
Display it with pride!

Let Baxter and Bill take you all for a ride!

Book (hardback):
(amount not furnished) but available through, Barnes &
Noble & others and online through– by Rick Huff