Once you start “The Last Cowboys,” you won’t want to stop

You can’t take it with you.

People have tried for millennia to keep all their toys but eventually, there comes a time to step aside and pass the baton to the next person who needs a chance. It’s their turn, their time to take things and run. The tricky part, as in the new book “The Last Cowboys” by John Branch, is understanding when let go.

The seventh generation was coming up.

With 13 children and numerous grandchildren, sixth-generation rancher Bill Wright knew that his family’s spread in Utah, near Zion National Park, would likely be passed to one of them someday. Meanwhile, working cattle, maintaining water reservoirs, it was a full-time business, but ranching was in Wright’s blood.

Once, though, for him, there was the rodeo.

That was the other thing Wright, a former bronc rider, had bestowed upon his sons: love of rodeo. His eldest boy, Cody, had reached high-level status as a bronc rider, and Cody’s brothers were moving up the ranks behind him. There was pride in that, not envy, and a dream for Cody that he might someday compete alongside his own sons.

But bronc riding is a hard way to make a living. For eight seconds, a rider must maintain balance, position, and form while astride a bucking, twisting, jumping horse. Points come from rider and horse, both; purses are cumulative and help rank the riders. Injuries are so common, they’re almost expected.

Says Branch, “The next ride might be a winner. Or it might be the last.”

While his sons criss-crossed the country each summer to ride in as many rodeos as possible, Wright cared for the ranch his family loved. He “wasn’t sure about all the talk on climate change” but he knew things weren’t like they used to be. Areas that once had plenty of grass were now drier. Grazing permits for federal lands were a tangle of rules. Ranching got harder and harder each year – but how could he sell a generations-old legacy?

In a way, “The Last Cowboys” is one of the most time-stretching books you’ll ever read.

Half of it is written in eight-second timelines, as author John Branch describes the skill, technique and problems with staying on a rarely-ridden horse long enough to win what could be six-figure payouts. Though it’s difficult to read, Branch writes about how hard such a sport is on a man’s body, and how addicting it can be.

As it should, the other side of this book moseys through 150 years of ranch life. Branch describes beautiful, mountainous views; and dusty pastures often tied to bureaucracy and boundaries. This side gives readers a chance to dwell in the lushness while reading, with sinking feeling, about its dwindling appeal to newer generations.

In the end, the answers are as complicated as are the rules for bronc riding and grazing rights, and readers who cherish the Old West shouldn’t wait to read about this new one. Start “The Last Cowboys,” and you’ll want to take it everywhere with you.

More in Life

‘Talk to Me’ draws from real life

The view from above was stunning. The cliché says that people look… Continue reading

You’ll want to hang tight when reading ‘The New Iberia Blues’

Your hand is deep in a bucket of crunchy goodness. Without popcorn,… Continue reading

New Year’s resolutions to keep this year|Puget Sound Fire

Here are some safety tips to start your new year off right.

Learn about favorite writers in ‘A Sidecar Named Desire’

The holiday season started with a cup of cheer. Then there was… Continue reading

Blood donors needed as local supply dips to emergency levels

Bloodworks Northwest is urging people to give blood and platelets after patient… Continue reading

A dietitian’s thoughts on the ‘keto’ diet

You’ve probably heard about the popular “keto” diet in the news this… Continue reading

You don’t have to like it, but you will

You don’t have to like it. That’s the way it is with… Continue reading

Students advance in Samsung STEM contest

Two Foster High School students are participating in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest.

The Shop With A Cop event took place on Dec. 8 at Target. Photo from Tukwila Police Department Facebook.
Shop With A Cop is another success

The Tukwila Police Department hosted Shop With A Cop on Dec. 8 to provide gifts for kids and their families.

Prepare to dive into the inner workings of a library

The possibilities seem endless. Row upon row of books awaits you, each… Continue reading

This book is sure to put you in the Christmas mood

You thought you knew what was inside the box. Though it was… Continue reading

Holiday Safety Tips|Puget Sound Fire Authority

The Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority gives tips on how to stay safe this holiday season.