Shades of the West

by Gray, Ted

Are cowboys just natural born story-tellers? Maybe it's the countless hours spent around a campfire swapping tales about the independent, sometimes wild, individuals that are drawn to the cowboying and ranching way of life that make cowboys such good spinners of yarns. Whether an innate or an acquired talent, everyone agrees that Ted Gray is blessed with it.

In this collection of over a hundred of what Gray calls "stories," we have his memoir of more than 50 years in the saddle combined with fascinating glimpses into the lives, deeds, and misdeeds of a remarkable array of "characters." Set in the Big Bend country of West Texas, Gray's stories cover the gamut of the cowboy's life, from roping to roundups, from bulls to broken bones, from butchering camp meat to roping elk, and from raw, pitching broncs to fine, well-trained cutting horses.

The "characters" that inhabit these pages are at times so wild and engage in such outlandish behavior that the reader must occasionally remind himself that these are real people and real events and not the fictional creations of a Hollywood screenplay. Many of the stories told here are very funny, some are tragic, but all of them teach us something about people.

We certainly learn a lot about Ted Gray in their telling: the extraordinary strength of his belief in hard work, loyalty, friendship, honesty, and being a good neighbor. He has enjoyed the wonderful bonds of lifelong friendship with men like Dick Riddle, Nicasio Ramirez, Lupe Ramirez and Jerome Dees. His loyalty to the Kokernots for whom he worked many years and the importance he places upon being a good neighbor are evident in many of the stories. Over and over Gray reveals his admiration for those who know their profession well and can demonstrate great skill at it. His greatest compliment to any man is, "He can do it all, and get it done right."

Gray's book will entertain, educate, and delight anyone interested in cowboys and ranching in the Southwest, particularly those interested in the Big Bend country of far West Texas.

This book reads like a campfire session. The voice of the natural story-teller shines through...? Elmer Kelton

2001
Iron Mountain Press, 276 pages
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