It’s a privilege to write a few words about such a delightful book as “Sandhills Boy.” This is the autobiography of one of my favorite authors. Elmer Kelton is the writer of stories of the West, especially his home in west Texas. He has been voted the “Best Western Writer of All Times” by fellow western writers. He has written over 50 novels and has received seven Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America. He doesn’t say anything about his many accomplishments in this heart-warming memoir. The book is more about the wonderful people in his life, who have been the source for many of his stories.
Kelton’s books are not about gunslingers but ordinary people in a vanished but colorful part of our history. All of his books incorporate this wonderful history into the lives of the characters and the fascinating stories he tells. These are stores much different than those by other greats like Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. Most adventure and western stories are about larger than life characters who are, as Kelton says. “seven feet tall and invincible.” Kelton says, “my characters are five-eight and nervous.”
Kelton’s characters cope with issues of the time, which are also some of our current issues. He writes about the vanishing culture of the cowboy in ‘The Good Old Boys.” He tells of the great drought and its effect on ranching and how tough ranchers like Charlie Flagg survived in these harsh times in his masterpiece, ‘The Time it Never Rained.” He writes about prejudice as he tells the story of a great black cowboy in “Wagon-Tongue.” He tells about working conditions and a strike by the cowboys in, “The Day the Cowboys Quit.” The source of these great stories and characters is unveiled in this refreshing memoir, ‘Sandhills Boy.”
It’s also about the love of his life , Anni the Austrian girl, he met when he was a GI in Germany during World War II. He tells of their life together in west Texas, his work on the newspaper as a reporter of ranching activities while he honed his craft of spinning great western stories.
I would highly recommend this great little book even if you are not a reader who appreciates the Western genre. I’m quite sure if anyone reads “The Time it Never Rained or “The Good Old Boys” they will be hooked on Kelton’s brand of the western story. “The Sandhills Boy” is about how that brand came to be. I have read about 10 or 12 of his books and look forward to reading the rest. The sad day will be when I have read them all, but I can then look forward to starting all over again.