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“No Wonder the Men Like This Country”

177. SPIKES, Nellie Witt. The Early Days on the South Plains [wrapper title].N.p., [1937]. [36] pp. 8vo, original grey pictorial wrappers, stapled (as issued). Wraps moderately stained and abraded, internally fine. Rare.

     First edition. Adams, Herd 2132: “Scarce.” Not in CBC. Letters from 1890 to 1894 by two women pioneers at Estacado and Emma (Crosby County, Texas). The writers provide good detail on pioneer life during open range days in the Llano Estacado, including a month-long spring roundup. “Can you get a thrill by picturing the cows and calves bawling and milling, the cowboys yelling and riding hard, the smell of burning hair and hide as the cattle are branded! No wonder the men like this country.”  They describe elections, moving the county seat to Emma, gathering salt at Salt Flats, prairie fires, attending the Old Soldier’s and Cowboy’s Reunion in 1900 at Canyon City (Molly Bailey performed), first automobile (“He said he was driving 20 miles an hour but it seemed to me like we must have been flying”), etc. Excellent women’s history, with descriptions of apparel, side saddle, “prairie coal” (cow chips), cooking (including cowboy and chuck-wagon fare), coping with illness in the absence of physicians, celebrating Christmas, attending the Dallas Fair in 1903, etc.

     The author puts in a good word for the “little” ranchers:  “Books are being written by writers that never knew the west and have no understanding of us; many claiming the ranches developed the country.  To a great extent this is not true. The ‘little’ ranchers and the nesters bringing their families, and wanting to give their children opportunities for an education and places to make homes.  They wanted law, and schools and churches and they did not stop till they had them.  Just plain everday [sic] people with a vision of the possibilities of this country to rear their family. Staying through drouth [sic] years, discouragement and making the best of what they had.”  Lest one think the lady wore jeans or homespun, she later remarks:  “I have a new accordion pleated black skirt and a china silk blouse, a black velvet turban with an ostrich plume of white, and long white kid gloves that reach to my elbows.”  Most excellent women’s and social history, and a rare range item.  ($150-300)

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