Cowboys, Gentlemen, and Cattle Thieves

Cowboys, Gentlemen, and Cattle Thieves: Ranching on the Western Frontier

Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Cowboys, Gentlemen, and Cattle Thieves
    Book Description:

    An Alberta rancher himself, Elofson helps us feel the dust, sweat, cold, and danger of round-ups as well as the disheartening after-effects of stampedes. He describes the massive losses incurred when herds were subjected to winter storms, wolves, prairie fires, disease, and rustlers and provides vivid illustrations of the dangers of ordinary life for both cowboy and settler. Cowboys, Gentlemen, and Cattle Thieves argues that the greatest influence on ranchers and settlers was the need to deal with the frontier environment and shows that adoption of intensive agricultural practices helped them carve out a permanent place in rural western Canada.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6873-0
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-2)

    This study focuses on the ranching industry in western prairie Canada from the early 1870s until just before World War I. Western prairie Canada refers to the region that stretches from the Bow River near Calgary on the northern extremity to the American border on the south and from the foothills of the Rockies on the western side‚ to the Cypress Hills and Wood Mountain districts on the east. Before 1905‚ of course‚ this entire region was part of the North-West Territories. The Cypress Hills and Wood Mountains were in southwestern Assiniboia‚ but the rest was in southern Alberta. The...

  6. 1 The Ranching Industry: An Overview
    (pp. 3-22)

    The first ranchers in the Canadian prairie West were grazers pure and simple. As in the southwestern American states‚ including Texas and California‚ and in Mexico‚ they ran herds of cattle or horses‚ or both‚ which they grazed summer and winter on the open range. They did the bulk of their work from the saddle‚ watching over their animals and rounding them up at certain times of the year for branding‚ vaccinating‚ sorting‚ and marketing. They did not till the soil‚ plant crops‚ hand feed any livestock‚ or milk any cows. In other words‚ they were not farmers.¹

    Starting in...

  7. 2 The Old World and the New
    (pp. 23-46)

    The western ranching community of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries was to a considerable extent a product of the frontier environment. In recent years historians have increasingly propagated the conflicting view‚ insisting that the early ranching industry north of the forty-ninth parallel differed from that on the American side largely because its development was more profoundly controlled and influenced by legal‚ technical‚ and cultural forces from the East.

    It is certainly true that the Canadian West was never as free of Old World institutions as the American. In Canada there were surveyors to provide for a uniform...

  8. 3 Frontiersmanship
    (pp. 47-70)

    An examination of the day-to-day operation of the first ranches in some detail leads to the conclusion that in the technical sphere (as opposed to the financial and political spheres) the Canadian cattle business was not just profoundly influenced by the ranching industry south of the forty-ninth parallel – it was virtually dependent upon it. This investigation has two other benefits as well: it allows readers to improve their understanding of the major obstacles that all ranchers had to confront when they turned to the task of shaping new businesses in the wilderness‚ and it helps clarify the image of the...

  9. 4 Nature’s Fury
    (pp. 71-98)

    The words penned by the wife of a large leaseholder in the foothills of Alberta in 1884 provide a glimpse of how effectively the environment worked on the human imagination on the frontier. After little more than a year in the West‚ Mary Inderwick believed she could sense its essence and its special qualities. She felt that the great open expanses and rugged terrain were making an enormous impact on her life‚ and she struggled to put it into words. In a few short years the ranch failed because of financial problems. And then‚ no doubt‚ some of her faith...

  10. 5 Two-Legged Predators
    (pp. 99-133)

    Another substantial adversary with which the early ranchers struggled was criminal activity. Investigation illustrates that the big ranchers were again affected by it more severely than were the small ranches. There are two principal explanations for this. One is that under frontier conditions the big operations with their wandering and relatively unsupervised herds were inordinately vulnerable to crime‚ just as they were to the destructive forces of nature. The other is that the frontier environment itself both facilitated criminal behaviour and made effective law enforcement exceedingly difficult. In the process of illustrating these statements it is necessary to argue directly...

  11. 6 The Evolution of Technique
    (pp. 134-149)

    The downplaying by Canadian historians of the importance of both the frontier and the natural environments in shaping ranching history may be one reason why very little investigation of day-to-day practices has been undertaken. These pages have argued that the American cowboy made a major impact on popular culture on the frontier because he‚ better than anyone else‚ had the skills‚ equipment‚ and knowledge to work the herds in an open range situation. The main contention in this chapter is that while adjusting to frontier and environmental conditions‚ cattlemen had to change their agricultural practices from the form of ranching...

  12. 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 150-158)

    The vision of the western Canadian ranching frontier presented in this work shows a land that was not nearly as Old World in culture‚ spirit‚ and agricultural form as many have believed.¹ Most aspects of life were moulded and manipulated by the frontier and natural environments with which the people from the East‚ overseas‚ and south were confronted. Unquestionably‚ one of the results was a considerable amount of lawlessness. Rustling in particular mushroomed at times virtually out of control‚ in part because a small police establishment found itself battling a monumental open range at a time when such tools as...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 159-196)
  14. Index
    (pp. 197-202)