The Mustangs

The Mustangs

The Mustangs

The Mustangs

Synopsis

J. Frank Dobie's history of the "mustang"-from the Spanish mesteña, an animal belonging to (but strayed from) the Mesta, a medieval association of Spanish farmers-tells of its impact on the Spanish, English, and Native cultures of the West.

Excerpt

Dayton O. Hyde

No animal represents the character of western America more than the mustang. the pronghorn, golden eagle, cougar, bison, and the prairie wolf all pale in comparison to this animal that has come to be symbolic not only of our freedom but of our independence.

Who can watch without emotion, a herd of wild horses, galloping wild and free, hooves beating life into the desert, circling to position themselves on the downwind side of danger, before vanishing and leaving only a pall of drifting dust to mark their passing? Poor clumsy humans that we are, there is no way we can run free with them.

J. Frank Dobie was a literary great, a rare combination of scholar and storyteller, who, in his fascinating book The Mustangs gave readers their own chance to run wild and free. Dobie captured the wild ones of the plains before they vanished like smoke from campfires. He brought the Old West back from near oblivion. Cowboys, mustangers, drifters, tellers of tales worn smooth in the telling, men who might have died without even an obituary to mark their passing but were unknowingly the stuff of western legend.

The Old West died with World War ii, when thirty-dollara-month cowboys were lured away from ranches by wartime industries and huge wages. Bunkhouse rats—old men who kept alive the tradition of western storytelling and once lived out their days splitting kindling for ranch stoves—moved to town to a dull life supported by Social Security. When they died, they took much of the Old West with them.

It is a tribute to Dobie that he sensed the passing of a great . . .

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