FROM PLATE TO PAGE
Five books that offer insight into local ranching legacies.
WRITTEN BY JENNY LUNA
The mere mention of the words “cattle,” “ranch,” or “cowboy” conjure up visions of America’s iconic past — its steel-toed heroes and the taming of the Wild West. In this issue, we share five books, many written and published locally, in which readers will find personal stories, historical accounts, and scientific discussions that highlight a rapidly changing way of life. As we all aim to know more about our meat — where it comes from and who raised it — it also becomes important to ponder where our ranchers themselves are from, their challenges and triumphs, and what ranching in the West means to them.
Land of the Buckaroo by Holly Walton-Buchanan. Jack Bacon & Co. Publishing.
Nevada native Holly Walton-Buchanan is a historic preservationist and comes from a long lineage of local ranching. In Land of the Buckaroo, Walton-Buchanan’s fourth locally published book based on Reno history, she documents the settlement of the Great Basin and identifies the immigrants who made Nevada their home. Stories of German, Scandinavian, and Italian immigrants building the basin and their family legacies from the ground up become the rags-to-riches tales of our area. You’ll find many noteworthy names, such as Crissie Caughlin, John Sparks, Grove Holcomb, George Peckham, and Louie Damonte, and their fascinating tales of cowboys, ranching, and buckaroos. This book also pays tribute to many families in Western Nevada that still are involved in ranching today.
Cattle in the Cold Desert by James A. Young and B. Abbott Sparks. University of Nevada Press.
Cattle in the Cold Desert uses the experiences of principal characters from our area’s history to illustrate how the Great Basin’s grassland was forever changed by domestic livestock. In a new edition released in 2002, added chapters touch on the area’s wild mustangs and their effect on the land. The combination of the development of the grazing industry and herdsmen’s interactions with the land makes for an interesting discussion on what effects grazing has had on our area’s plant communities.
The Family Ranch by Linda Hussa. University of Nevada Press.
With intimate family photos and descriptive narrative, award-winning author Linda Hussa exposes readers to daily ranch life through her chapters that chronicle six families. The Family Ranch follows the Tysons, McKays, Harpers, Walkers, Hammonds, and Stoddarts — families that live in accordance with nature and exhibit the love, persistence, dedication, and commitment necessary for a life on the land. In a chapter featuring the McKay family, Hussa describes life on the ranch for Joyce and Joy after adopting six Haitian children and bringing them halfway around the world to the McKay ranch. Heartfelt stories such as this chronicle the children of each family, their success on their ranches, and the parenting and family values cultivated from the ranching life. Hussa’s book is an excellent look into local families’ passion for their land and their communal pursuit of happiness.
Fifty Miles from Home by Linda Dufurrena and Carolyn Dufurrena. University of Nevada Press.
Anyone native to Nevada or proud to call it home will enjoy the stunning and surreal photographs in this book. Photos by Linda Dufurrena and words by her daughter-in-law, Carolyn, uncover the powerful forces of Nevada’s rich, desert ranchlands. The 50-mile radius around the Dufurrenas’ home is captured in sunrises on the Black Rock Desert; eerie images of Jumbo Mine; Northern Nevada wildflowers; photos of forgotten highways, cowboys, and branding; and aspens in the fall, just to name a few. True love and pride for the land are found on every page, in every word, and in each photograph of the incredible Silver State.
Ranching West of the 100th Meridian edited by Richard L. Knight, Wendell C. Gilgert, and Ed Marston. Island Press.
Ranching West of the 100th Meridian provides insight into what it means to be a rancher, where ranching as an industry is going, and the ecological threats to it. Told through literary narratives, each essayist addresses the art of ranching in the Wild West. The anthology also touches on the role ranchers play in American society today, the images and ideals surrounding the industry, and how the concept of a cowboy has changed over time. Well researched and written by many Western-born ranchers, this collection pulls at the heartstrings and the intellect as it dissects the image of those who try to tame the Wild West.
Jenny Luna is a freelance writer based out of the Tahoe area. Writing about local ranches brings intrigue and continued pride for the Wild West she calls home.
Buy the Book
Purchase or order the books at:
121 California Ave., Reno