Book Reviews


The Proud Bull—A Tale of Catching Wild Cattle … With a Twist

By Jim Olson
O Slash O, 2009
134 pages
Review by Don Bullis

This is a tale within a tale. Four young Texas cowboys, working on a ranch in central New Mexico — three hundred sections extending from the Rio Grande to “the mountains on the far east side up above the valley”—

test their cowboying mettle against a gnarly old bull in modern times. Along the way they learn a number of valuable lessons.

Readers are lead to believe that these are experienced ranch hands so this is no litany of dude misfortunes on the cactus covered New Mexico range. That does not mean, though, that they really knew what they were doing when it came to limiting the freedom of the old bull. They soon learned, for instance, that the big bovine was not in the least intimidated by the pickup truck they drove. The mighty mammal stood in the road as if daring the vehicle to try and pass. Then they learned that a single tranquilizer dart had no effect whatever upon the behavior of el toro, nor did two darts, or even three. In fact it became clear that three jolts of joy juice only made the bull mad; mad enough that he charged the truck with a vengeance.

Darts four and five also left the bull unbothered and his on-rush continued.  “The bull now had more darts planted into him,” readers are told, “than any other bovine in the history of the tranquilize and tie down method of wild cattle catching.”  The cowboys were obliged to retreat, as the bull pursued them. The remainder of the book recounts the further adventures of the four cowboys as the chase goes on, and on.
This is a fun book and should be a quick and easy read for ranch folks as well as those who have never enjoyed the smell of a manure pile. The ending will please the latter group, but I fear that those who have spent some time on the range will have heard different versions of the story before.  The book might have benefited by the services of a proofreader. Misplaced punctionation does not, however, take the fun out of the book. And, readers will not find sex, mayhem or bad language on these pages.
Author Jim Olson was raised on a ranch on the high plains of Eastern New Mexico. In addition to his duties as a ranch hand and equipment operator, he became a proficient calf roper and competed at the PRCA level. He continues to enjoy team roping with his family and participates in several events per year. His first book was My Cowboy Heroes Volume I. He is a member of Western Writers of America.  He is also the owner of Arizona and New Mexico Ranch Real Estate. He is a regular contributor to the New Mexico Stockman and resides near Stanfield, Arizona.
This and other Olson works can be purchased at:

Cow Country Cooking —
Recipes and Tales from Northern Arizona’s Historic Ranches

by Kathy McCraine
Toppan Printing, 2010
192 pages       
Review by Lee Pitts

Prescott, Arizona is cowboy country. Some of the largest ranches in the United States are within a day’s circle on the back of a horse. And Prescott claims to be home to the world’s oldest rodeo. We know, other places also make that claim but let’s just say that since 1888 they’ve been putting on a rodeo in this town. Match that.
Kathy McCraine was born in Texas, but after about 50 years the Arizona folks have stopped holding that against her. Her folks moved to Walnut Grove, Arizona, where Kathy was ranch-raised. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arizona in Journalism and Art and has spent her professional career putting her education to good use. You’ve probably seen her writing, photography and/or artwork if you read Western Horseman, Range, Arizona Highways, Thunderbird Magazine, or American Cowboy. If you haven’t seen her byline in any of those places perhaps you’ve read one of her three successful cookbooks, (soon to be four) including Camouflage Cuisine, which has been in print for 26 years. Having such traditional and historic ranches in the neighborhood like the
O RO, the Diamond A, and Babbitt Ranches inspired Kathy to put together a cookbook featuring recipes and stories used in the bunkhouse, out in cow camps and around the chuck wagon. Without meaning to offend any other writers, let us just say that Kathy’s latest book, Cow Country Cooking, is about the best we’ve ever laid eyes on. Needless to say, these aren’t recipes that start out, “Open a can of Campbell’s mushroom soup.” This is the food of real ranch cooks, not celebrity chefs.
“Northern Arizona cowboys,” says Kathy, “have a distinctive style that sets them apart from those in other states, and even southern Arizona. Ranch cooks, however, come in a variety of models. Meat, beans, and potatoes are the staples here, but with such an influx of people from all areas of the country and the world, you’ll find endless ethnic variety, even sophistication, in our ranch cooking. Over the decades many cultures have migrated here. Our neighbors to the south in Sonora brought a style of Mexican cooking that differs from that of Texas or California. The Basque people of France and Spain, who came here to herd sheep in the nineteenth century, brought their own rustic cooking style. Greeks, Germans, and Italians have also added their influence to the rich fusion of ranch cooking.
“Many of the cooks I visited at ranch houses, wagons and cow camps were kind enough to write down their recipes. In other cases, I had to sit down and watch them cook, or pry a somewhat rough account of ingredients and cooking directions from them. Then I went home and cooked the dish, figuring out how to duplicate what I had just tasted.”
Cow Country Cookbook features two dozen beautiful watercolor paintings by Texas artist, Mark Kohler, and a veritable feast of witty stories and sayings from some top hands on northern Arizona ranches that are as tasty as the recipes.  For example, Joe St. Clair, the Diamond A cook said, “When I was growing up things were tough. It was potatoes one day and peelings the next.”                  
And my personal favorite from Wayne Word, the O RO ranch manager: “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.”
That’s what Kathy’s latest offering is, a great big heaping helping of the West that goes down easy and will leave you begging for seconds.
The cookbook is $30 plus $4 shipping and handling ($1.25 for each additional book). Send check or money order to Kathy McCraine, 7765 Williamson Valley Rd., Prescott, AZ 86305. E-mail .

Trouble in a Green Pickup

by Charlie McCarty
Dorrance Publishing Co, Inc., 2010
Review by Jeamie Burris-Awalt /
Silver City Daily Press

Charlie McCarty titled his book Trouble in a Green Pickup for a reason. The book has come to life by the shared efforts of the McCarty couple and their family. Charlie wrote the stories down on paper and his wife, Thelma, typed. Their family is helping with promotion. It has not been easy for McCarty to get his book published, but he is serious about getting his story told.
The setting for the book is western New Mexico with Charlie McCarty being born in February 1940. The book begins by sharing experiences of ranch life, which generations of the McCarty family has faced. He has lived his life in the general area as many of his ancestors did. When reading the book it becomes apparent that McCarty is an American and proud of it. He has the courage and the backbone required to survive in living in rural New Mexico.
McCarty knows first-hand the situations cattlemen experience concerning droughts, floods, cold winters and the people who can affect the business because he has lived that life. He shares accounts of family ranches adn businesses being controlled and ruined by federal government interference. Charlie and Thelma are business owners and have seen many changes over the years in their hometown of Reserve.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has affected not only McCarty, but also the lives of his family and countless others in New Mexico. He sheds light on the practices used by the USFS over the past 100 years and the situations created for those involved.
The books is worth reading to get the viewpoint and the feelings that many old-timers in rural New Mexico carry toward the USFS. Copies can be purchased on