One of Only Thirty Copies

“Salty, personal, anecdotal, and utterly authentic”

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624. HAMNER, Laura V[ernon]. Short Grass & Longhorns. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1942. [10], [1-3] 4-254 pp. 8vo (22 x 15 cm), original red brick cloth, gilt-lettered spine, top edge tinted red. With author’s typed statement tipped to front flyleaf explaining that the book is intended for sixth and seventh graders and that any offensive language will be removed. Very fine copy.

     First edition, first issue of thirty copies printed seeking to induce Texas schools to adopt it as a supplemental textbook. Adams, Guns 916: “Scarce.... Copies of the first issue of this book (an edition of thirty copies published in 1942 in an effort to secure its adoption as supplementary reading book in the Texas public schools) are very rare and have become collector’s items.... Contains material on Billy the Kid and his stay in Tascosa.”Adams, Herd 985: “Valuable history of the leading ranches of West Texas.” Campbell, pp. 97-98: “The author visited the ranches of the Texas Panhandle and talked with old-time ranch folk wherever she found them, in some fifty counties. Her gatherings are salty, personal, anecdotal, and utterly authentic. What is more, she knew how to write. The result is a book unmatched of its kind.” Campbell, My Favorite 101 Books about the Cattle Industry 44. Dobie, p. 105. Dykes, Kid 314n; Western High Spots, p. 103 (“The Texas Ranch Today”).

     Handbook of Texas Online:

Laura Vernon Hamner (1871-1968), public official, writer, radio commentator, and ranch historian, daughter of James Henry and Laura Lula (Hendrix) Hamner, was born on July 17, 1871, in Tennessee. She was educated at Miss Higbee’s School, Memphis, and Peabody Normal College, Nashville, studied further in Texas colleges and the University of Chicago, spent many years in the teaching profession, and subsequently was postmaster at Claude (1913 to 1921) and Potter County superintendent of education (1922–38). She was a Methodist.

Around 1892, when she assisted her father in newspaper work in Claude, Miss Hamner knew Charles and Mary Ann Goodnight; she later wrote a novelized biography of Charles, The No-Gun Man of Texas (1935). Many years of primary research into life stories of old-timers gave impetus for her books Short Grass and Longhorns (1943) and Light ‘n Hitch (1958). Short Grass has become a classic. For over thirty years Laura Hamner wrote features for the Amarillo Globe-News-”Talks to Teens,” “Panhandle Scrapbook,” and others. She also gave a weekly radio talk on old-time Panhandle life. In 1947 she published an article about Matthew “Bones” Hooks, a black Amarillo cowboy, in Readers’ Digest. Besides breaking ground in research when many insisted the Panhandle had no history, she spurred others to literary efforts. With a friend, Phebe K. Warner, she founded Panhandle Pen Women in the 1920s.

For over thirty years she lived in the Herring Hotel, Amarillo, keeping open house for literary agents, publishers, writers, and would-be writers from many parts of the world. She was never married. She lived on a land claim in No-Man’s-Land (Oklahoma); she adopted a child; she sat on village curbstones and interviewed superannuated cowboys; she braved gunfire to interview a former outlaw. Associates gave her such tributes as honorary membership in the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and municipal observances of “Laura V. Hamner Week.” Indeed, for a time she was known informally as “Miss Amarillo.” She died on September 20, 1968, while with a relative in Alabama, and was buried in Claude beside her parents. Most of her extensive Texana papers are in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, though some are in the Barker Texas History Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

     Hamner ends on a nostalgic note in her last chapter, “Whistle of the Locomotive”:

Three railroads now crossed the Panhandle and the big ranch era was gone. New conditions came slowly, but the boys who rode the ranges foresaw the end when the first train crept along the harshly chiseled horizon line back in 1887.

The old days and the old ways were gone, gone in the smoke of that first locomotive.


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