Bad news is about all we hear now days. The debate over healthcare reform rages and the economy continues to struggle. There are still a lot of unemployed folks and consumer confidence remains poor. We learned today that Michael Jackson was murdered. The doc who was with him at the time of his death is obviously going to get nailed.
All these things are bad news but the saddest bit of news came today when I found out that one of my favorite writers died. Elmer Kelton, who was probably the greatest western writer of all times, died at 83 years of age. He wrote about the real heroes, the cowboys. I have read a large number of his books and have enjoyed every sentence. Some of his classics were; The Time it Never Rained, The Good Old Boys, The Man Who Rode Midnight, The Day the Cowboys Quit and many, many others.
I actually met and talked to Elmer Kelton a couple of times. He was an unpretentious, plain kind of person who was much like the cowboys in his stories. In fact he was raised on a ranch. He indeed was a cowboy who reported on this vanishing breed of Americans for many years.
He went to UT where his education was interrupted by WWII. He met his wife in Germany. Before the war, when he was at UT, he wanted to meet the great J. Frank Dobie but as a young kid from west Texas he was too embarrassed to introduce himself to the master and couldn’t take his course because it was open only to seniors. When Kelton returned to UT, after the war, Dobie was no longer there, so they never met. It was sad for Kelton but as it turns out he is a far better writer that Dobie. Dobie was the real loser for never having met Elmer Kelton. Kelton was also a better writer than Zane Grey or Louis L’Amour. He won many awards for western writing. It took a writer like Larry McMurtry to win a Pulitzer for Lonesome Dove but many of Kelton’s books are equal to, or even better than McMurtry’s masterpiece.
The genre of the Western is almost dead. Western movies and TV shows are long gone. The western pulps are almost dead and with the death of Elmer Kelton they are sure to go the way of the movies. The real cowboys and the romantic west also died long ago. For a Western fan like me it is truly a sad day and I’m going to miss the great Elmer Kelton. As long as I’m around he will still be with me on the porch as I am surrounded by his books.