What they didn't teach you about the wild West

Mike Wright, 1938-

Book - 2000

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 978.02/Wright Checked In
Novato, CA : Presido Press c2000.
Main Author
Mike Wright, 1938- (-)
Physical Description
xviii, 370 p. : ill
Includes bibliographical references (p. 353-364) and index.
  • Chronology
  • Introduction
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. When the East Was West: Sunrise to Sunset
  • 2. The Cowboys: Making the Wild West Wild, Part One
  • 3. Trails West: Head 'Em Up and Move 'Em Out
  • 4. The Cattle Barons: Making the Wild West Wild, Part Two
  • 5. Westward Ho! Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beerholder
  • 6. Settlers and Celestials: Those Who Toiled, Those Who Wept
  • 7. The Railroads: Iron Horse and Pony Express
  • 8. The Native Americans: Warriors of the West
  • 9. America's Black West: Buffalo Soldiers and Maroons
  • 10. Gold Fever: When the World Rushed In
  • 11. Heroes, Heroines, and Myths: The Stuff of Dreams
  • 12. Wyatt Earp and Friends: Shootouts and Stickups
  • 13. Trail's End: The Sun Slowly Sets
  • Epilogue: Personal Thoughts on the Wild West
  • Bibliography
  • Index
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Pedestrian title notwithstanding, this is an engrossing, lively, and comprehensive look ""beneath the skirts"" of our national Western-colonialist myth. Wright (What They Didn't Teach You About the American Revolution, not reviewed) throws a wide net--ranging from pre-1800 expansionist exploration east of the Mississippi to the personal histories of such mythic figures as Calamity Jane and Bill Hickock--with consistently crisp results. The author is an amusing writer with a dead-eye for trenchant or encapsulating detail, capturing the complex social codes and individualistic drives towards prosperity (or mere survival) in what appears as a nonconformist, morally equivocal West. In cleanly organized chapters (such as ""Trails West"" and ""The Railroads""), Wright addresses the severe travails of frontier life (from wars between farmers and ranchers to the blizzards of the 1880s, which killed millions of cattle), the official expansionist imperatives that promoted both railways and Native American resettlement, and the circumstances (especially California gold fever) that lured many from the urbanized East. Yet, despite a sound national-historical compass, his portrait emphasizes the raw human qualities and nitty-gritty necessities of western settlement: the earthiness portrayed is reminiscent of such cultural touchstones as Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian or Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, although Wright asserts that the real West was far less violent than commonly held (with the significant exception of government massacres of Native Americans, several of which are addressed in chilling detail). Despite Wright's good-humored reportage, subtle tones of fragility and impending mortality develop: as in the Pyrrhic conclusion of the Indian Wars (involving such atrocities as the assassination of Sitting Bull) and the grim denouements of folk archetypes like Belle Starr, Geronimo, and Wyatt Earp, one is left sensing the linkage between technology's dawn and the closing of the frontier--the ""real West's"" extermination--and the fuzzy, sentimental spawning of 20th-century cinematic mythologies, wrong-headed yet appealing. A history that will startle and satisfy any reader with a taste for unvarnished realities of the Old West. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.