Articles Comments

Rope Burns » Book Reviews current

Book Reviews current

Book reviews are welcome from any source so long as they relate to the western culture, both past and contemporary.  We do not review books, so reviews must be sent in by qualified sources.  They can be sent to


Ridin’ Shotgun by Smokey Culver

a-book kisken culver riding shotgunAfter I graduated highschool, I could not wait to leave my hometown. Now, as an old man reading Smokey Culver’s book of poetry Ridin’ Shotgun, I envy him. Cowboy and poet is what Smokey is. He writes about mud, old dogs, cowboy life, rodeos, ropes, hats, feed stores and it is obvious he knows what he writes about. No pollyanna, good times and hard times. I like honest writers. One would have to be one to write a poem titled Mud in which he makes fun of himself. Smokey is the kind of guy I would like to sit by a fire with, drink a beer or cup of coffee and listen to. Since I can’t, I have the next best thing, his poems. Here are some lines from some of my

The Life of a Cowboy

   He’s up in time to wake up the chickens and his pony is saddled to ride

\It’s time to pen cattle, load’em up for the trip, got his trusty ol’ dog by his side

   It’s the life he has chosen, there’s no turnin’ back, but he’d have it no other way

there’s nothin’ more real than the life of a cowboy and he lives that life every day.

    Sittin’ out by the fire watching stars in the sky, the heifers are bellowing low

he sips his black coffee, taking stock of his life, and there’ s only one thing that he knows

   He is meat to be right where he is, no place else, and he’ll be here when he’s laid to rest

tho’ his life may be hard, it’s been worth every challenge, and he’s always given his best.

The Farmhouse

   Of all the old abandoned buildings scattered through the land

each one has its own story quite unique

   They tell their tales, but not with words, their hist’ry they reveal

and, if we listen silently they speak.

Picture Show

    The previews first, a newsreel, then they start to roll the film

a cowboy show; the good guys always win

   You watch the movie wide-eyed never miss a single scene

although you know just how it’s gonna end.


    I headed out to pass ’em round, while loaded to the max

8 tubs were balanced, plodding through the mud

   But when my rubber boots got stuck, momentum took its toll

and slammed me backwards landing with a thud.

Coffee With the Lord

    I think about the life I might have had if I had gone

the other way, not lived the cowboy’s dream

If I had never spent the night out on the open range

or tasted water from a mountain stream.

   Now I’m not sayin’ that my life is easy, not at all

but I’d not want to trade with anyone

   I’ll ride as long as I can saddle up and say a prayer

and work each day from dawn till setting sun.

……..Bob Kisken

Red White Black

Little White Man

Buy the Chief a Cadillac

By Rick Steber

kisken book-a-red white blackkisken book-a-little white mankisken book-a-buy chief cadillac

The first Pendleton Roundup was held in September of 1910. In 1911, three top riders were in the finals of the Northwest Saddle Bronc Championship. Rick Steber has written a book about the finals and three riders. The book Red White Black is about (1) Jackson Sundown, a native American (2) John Spain, a white man and (3) George Fletcher. Mr. Steber is who lives in Oregon, has written many books, fiction and non fiction about that area. I have a hard time putting his books down once I start them. I will review more of them for Rope Burns. He includes a biographical sketch of each of the three riders replete with old photos. People interested in Pendleton and the early days of rodeo will find this book most valuable. Two other books by the same author, Little White Man and Buy the Chief a Cadillac should be of interest to people interested in NW history and native American history.

…….Bob Kisken

Cowboyin’ With Earl by M.C. Tin Star

kisken-book-badgett02I first met Wally Badgett at the Bucking Horse Sale in Miles City, Montana. Born in Montana, Wally has ranched, cowboyed, rodeoed, been a deputy sheriff and is presently the rodeo coach at Miles City Community College. He is also a fine cartoonist. He has published a series of books Cowboyin’ With Earl and his cartoons have appeared in many farm and ranch magazines. When I lived in Wyoming, a rancher’s wife said to me one day “Earl reminds me of my husband”. That is better than any review that I could write. If you are familiar with Wally’s cartoons, you know what I mean. If not, google Wally’s World, Home of Earl’s Comics, buy a couple, sit back and laugh.

……..Bob Kisken


The O’Malleys Of Texas Dead Aim by Dusty Richards

kisken-book-dead aimKensington Publishing Company recently released a novel by the late Dusty Richards. Mr. Richards passed away as a result of an auto accident in January of 2018. Dusty has published over 100 novels and short stories about the west. Dead Aim, is what I would call a rags to riches western. The book, which takes place after the Civil War, is about two brothers , Long John and Harp O’Malley, who, by had work and determination, build up large ranches in Texas. Lots of westerns I have read are good stories, where the good guy defeats the bad guy and wins the girl and lives happily ever after. While there is some of that in this book, there is something else which I find refreshing. As I read it, I kept thinking that this is true. Dusty deals with the hardships of the trail drives, black cowboys, vices of Abilene, Kansas. He writes about Texas lynch laws, bringing of barb wire into the ranches, squatters, black soldiers, carpet baggers. Some of the events he deals with in detail, some in just passing by.This book makes me want to know more about Texas history than I do. Most westerns don’t do this to me. This one does. This is the first book I have read by Mr. Richards and I look forward to many more. I have been told that more books by Mr. Richards will be released in the future.

……..Bob Kisken