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The Day the Cowboys Quit by Elmer Kelton

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  • Pages: 4
  • Word count: 851
  • Category: Books

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Elmer Kelton’s book, The Day the Cowboys Quit, is a tale that takes readers back to thinking about what it might have been like in the old days of 1883. The book not only gives the reader an excellent idea of what might have gone on during that time in the new American West, but it also takes the time to bring forth the interesting and complex story of one American cowboy, Hugh Hitchcock.

Though the author touches on several different themes, he takes particular interest in the changing dynamic of the new West. The book’s primary argument and point of contention is that change brings forth the opportunity to make both good and bad choices. Those choices, as Hitchcock and the other cowboys quickly discover, play a significant role in how their lives will turn out in the end.

            The book is about a situation in 1883, when the cowboys who controlled the action in the American West came into conflict with the big ranchers that were also looking for more power. The story focuses primarily on one group of cowboys, but it is really just a symbolic mention that is supposed to represent the changing dynamic that faces the cowboy in the changing landscape of America. The cowboys have owned some cattle and they have a huge stake in the control of cattle farming in the American West. The problem, as they will soon find out, is that many people are not comfortable with them having so much control over the industry.

This is where the cattle ranchers come in and they try to keep the cowboys from owning any cattle. This causes the cowboys to rise up together in something of a makeshift union and strike against the rich ranchers who are trying to shut them down. This all happened, of course, before the advent of actual unions which were designed to protect the rights of workers. The story centers on the decisions made by the cowboys and especially the main character, Hugh Hitchcock.

He is a perfect example of one cowboy who does not completely agree with or understand what is going on in the changing landscape of America. He gets caught up in the decisions that were made for him and as such, he ends up having some regrets. The decision by cowboys to rally together in order to protect their rights is a bold one, but it does not come up with the result that they were looking for. They are left to reconsider their options and think about the decision they made. They are left under the mercy of those people who stripped their way of life.

            This book succeeds on a number of different levels, all because of the author’s presentation. He takes a story that is relatively boring and turns it into a great western tale that readers enjoy. This is accomplished through the author’s unique ability to bring a personal feel to the story. Through the story and the life of Hugh Hitchcock, the author shows us that the changing American landscape not only had broad, wide-scale impact, but it also hit close to home to many individuals.

The author seems to have researched this event very well, which is evidenced by his ability to provide numerous details to back up his assertions. The story reads like something of a history lesson to go along with a commentary on Americanism. He writes a different type of story in that he uses direct points instead of simply using broad generalizations. It is sometimes easy to get caught up in the generalizations if you are writing about something as commonplace as Americanism.

In this book, he makes sure to write, at length, about the interesting dynamic between the cowboys and the ranchers. The author understands that this relationship is at the heart of the story and it is the one driving factor that all of the readers of the book can relate to. They may not be able to understand the feelings of the cowboys and the ranchers, but they can find some way to relate to the relationship and the struggle for power between the ranchers and those people they wanted to control. These things make this a powerful read, as it stands the test of time in telling a great story.

            This book is an excellent read because it had the ability to provide entertainment and value to each of its readers. It can reach both the lovers of western stories, as well as those people who seek to understand the complicated dynamic of American business.

The author leaves nothing to the imagination, describing events, people, and situations with amazing clarity and strategic diction. This book was both entertaining and enriching. It told a story that had previously been untold, and it did this in a way that keeps the reader coming back for more. All in all, it’s the kind of book that goes above and beyond the call of duty because of the author’s diligence.

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