The Range Cattle Industry: Ranching on the Plains from 1865-1925Edward Everett Dale
Like most young boys growing up in Oklahoma, I was fascinated with cowboy and western movies. Nothing seemed more exciting than fantasizing about being on horse back herding cattle across the plains and hearing your trail boss, John Wayne, shout “round-em-up and head-em-out.”
Today, it seems that destiny played a part in my selecting the history of the Great Plains for a master’s thesis. In conducting my research, I discovered an absolute jewel entitled The Range Cattle Industry published in 1930 by the University of Oklahoma Press. The author of this classic study on range cattle industry was Dr. Edward Everett Dale, chairman of the Department of History at the University of Oklahoma from 1924 to 1942. Dr. Dale, a true cowboy in his early manhood, homesteaded in southwestern Oklahoma and then educated himself with degrees from the University of Oklahoma and Harvard. During 1924-25, he began his remarkable research on cattle ranching in the Trans-Mississippi West post Civil War.
He concluded that due to the impact of the Civil War, and with no available market, the cattle herds of Texas increased rapidly. After the war’s end, the ranchers quickly learned that the most economical method of moving cattle to market was by trail herding to the newly available railheads in Kansas. Most of those great trails passed through Oklahoma which at that time was known as Indian Territory; however, by 1890 with the creation of Oklahoma Territory, the era of the great cattle drives was over.
Dr. Dale’s book is a disciplined historian’s overview of the cattle industry in the Great Plains and his account of the cattle drives can still tempt many young boys to join John Wayne on a cattle drive along the Great Western or the Chisholm Trails.
From Books That Inspire 2008.