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October 1998
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This Ol' Drought Ain't Broke Us Yet

This Ol' Drought Ain't Broke Us Yet, Stories from the American West: Jim Garry, Johnson Books, 1992, ISBN 1-55566-170-X, paperback. (Hardcover version published by Crown Publishers as part of the Library of the American West.)


From the back cover: Jim Garry has worked as a cowboy, naturalist, horse wrangler, media consultant, wilderness guide, teacher, camp cook, political consultant, lumberjack, mule packer, folklore collector, storyteller, poet, and a few other things. He lives all over the West, but his mail accumulates in Big Horn, Wyoming.

If you haven't been a short order cook then being a camp cook will do.

Among other things Jim Garry collects and tells stories about the American West, the West of ranchers and cowboys. He has an easy, relaxed, Western narrative style. You will, in the course of the book, learn a bit here and there about ranching, rodeos, cowboys, and the feel of the West. He is not informing you, though, he's just telling stories and chatting, much as you might around a campfire.

The thing about ranching, you see, is that you need a sense of humor - you have to be able to laught at what happens. The humor is often dry - ranchers don't deal much in cocktail party wit - and it's local. The life is hard and a million disasters are always ready to stomp on you. The lines "If you can laugh at something it can't hurt you. It can kill you but it can't hurt you." tells the story.

"Drought probably sums up the rancher's sense of humor about as well as anything. One time I was with a group of ranchers having coffee out in Fort Stockton, Texas, talking about the current drought, when a fellow from back East, visitng one of the ranchers, asked, 'Has this drought broke anyone around here yet?'

'No,' one the local replied, 'but we're all bent pretty bad."

Most of the stories are from the period 1880-1940 although a few are from later on.

"One of the markers I use to judge old people's perspective is the way they answer three simple questions: Can you remember the first time you rode in a car? The first time you talked on a phone? The first time you heard a radio? If they answer yes to one or more of these questions, then it is safe to assume that they were born into a different world from the one we now inhabit. They were born into the the world of the horse, a world that had existed for several thousand years and that no longer exists because we completely rebuilt the world to accommodate the automobile."

Good read, good stories.


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