I have enjoyed my career in Medicine and wouldn’t trade it for any other. I still fantasize about other things I might have done. It’s interesting that many of these fantasies haven’t changed since childhood. I grew up in the time of Western movies and always thought it would have been great to be a cowboy like those I saw in the movies. I have never even owned a horse but the life of the cowboy always appealed to me. They lived an adventurous, independent life.
I just finished reading the final novel of my favorite western writer, Elmer Kelton. Kelton died last year and it is a great loss for those of us who love anything Western. He was one of the last of a dying breed that started with Zane Grey. Kelton’s last book was, “Other Men’s Horses.” I then picked up, “Cloudy in the West,” and just completed this great yarn. Kelton had a terrific imagination and could really tell a story. He wrote about the Golden Age of the cowboy, which was after the Civil War until 1900. The peak time was 1880. He incorporated much Texas History and folklore in his stories. He loved the Texas Rangers. He has written multiple novels and his classics are; “The Time it Never Rained,” “The Day the Cowboys Quit,” and “ The Good Old Boys.” To me, all of his stories are classics.
I had the good fortune to meet and speak to Elmer Kelton on a couple of occasions. He was a very unpretentious, average sort of fellow from San Angelo, Texas. He grew up on a ranch in west Texas and was very knowledgeable about horses and cattle. He started writing for a Farm and Ranch magazine and also wrote a newspaper column related to ranching. He knew his stuff.
Some have claimed that J. Frank Dobie was a great writer of western material. I have always found Dobie boring and dry, although he knew a lot of Texas Folklore. Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove” is the only thing to rival Kelton but Kelton is more a master of the Western yarn.
It’s simply a wonderful thing to let my mind escape, on the porch, into one of Elmer Kelton’s great stories. I’m just so sorry he won’t be around anymore to keep them coming. Unfortunately, there is no one on the horizon to fill his shoes. I’m afraid the westerns have died with Elmer Kelton.