In 1907 Cordelia Jane Sloan married Robert L. Duke, a ranch hand who had risen to division manager for the 3,000,000-acre XIT Ranch of Texas, the world's largest. An eager observer, she early began the habit of keeping a diary. As time passed, she had the foresight to realize that the sweaty, tired, hungry cowhands with whom she visited were part of a unique phase of American life. What she particularly perceived was that these men would be glamorized and the memory of their work distorted by writers who could sense a pay vein when they saw one.
Besides keeping her own diary, she encouraged these cowhands -- some barely literate, some with a fine sense of communication, but nearly all of them men who could go months or even years without taking pencil in hand -- to jot down descriptions of what they did as cowboys. This way . . .
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