Books, Culture and Society

The Golden Age of Western Stories Returns

Today our perception of the cowboy is derived almost exclusively from the many films and television programs that romanticized the American west. That image of a stalwart, square-jawed hero is appealing and immensely popular.

The Golden Age of Western Stories Returns

Thomas McNulty is the author of Errol Flynn, a critically acclaimed biography, and the novels, “Trail of the Burned Man”, “Wind Rider”, and “Death Rides a Palomino”, who is also an avid Pulp Fiction fan of audio books on cd. http://www.goldenagestories.com/audiobooks

Actors such as John Wayne and Cary Cooper have come to epitomize the cowboy and the legends of the American west. These icons are wholesome and worthwhile, and will remain forever a part of our cultural legacy.

But there was another type of cowboy, the one that actually rode the ranges during the cattle boom after the Civil War. This cowboy is equally as fascinating as his fictional counterpart, but with noticeable differences.

The great cattle drives lasted a relatively short period of time. Commencing in 1866 and diminishing by 1896, the cattle drives flourished for less than thirty years but created the legends that refuse to perish. The demand for beef set cattlemen across the prairies to face the hazards of the Chisholm Trail and later by railroad to meet the demand of a hungry nation.

The true tales of the cowboy sometimes played out with operatic tragedy as they endured stampedes, disease, the Indian Wars, cattle rustlers, battles between cattlemen and ranchers, and mother nature’s fury. From this was born the stuff of legends.

With the extermination of the buffalo and the Indian nations relegated to reservations the cattlemen were now free to stake claims on the Great Plains. Cattle ranches thrived on the grasslands where the cattle grazed until they were fat enough for an increasingly lucrative market.

It fell to the pulp writers to romanticize the cowboy and turn his tale into a popular form of entertainment. Remarkable pulp writers such as L. Ron Hubbard, E. Hoffman Price, William F. Nolan and Zane Grey, to name a few, published numerous popular westerns. These stories were brisk, action-packed westerns in the classic mold. But while these were works of fiction there were often elements of historical fact that were used as plot devices.

For example in “Hubbard’s Cattle King for a Day” the premise is simple, Chinook Shannon seeks the true identity of the man that killed his grandfather and now wants his cattle ranch. Although Cattle King for a Day is a work of fiction it’s true that competition for cattle and land rights often resulted in bloody showdowns. Hubbard brilliantly used a snippet of historical fact to create a rousing entertainment.

During the pulp era, westerns comprised a large segment the titles that found their way from the New York publishing houses and onto magazine racks across the country. Those cattlemen and cowboys that rode the Chisholm Trail had no way of knowing they would inspire writers for decades to come, and thanks to these early pulp fiction writers, readers or those following stories through audio books, can experience the Old West as imagined by Master Storytellers!


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