The WLA Blog is hosting a stop on the virtual tour of Unbridled Cowboy (Truman State University Press, 2008), written by Joseph B. Fussell, edited by E. R. Fussell.
The essay below was contributed by editor (and grandson of author Joseph Fussell) E. R. Fussell as part of the virtual tour:
I remember my grandfather, Joe Fussell, as a rather tall, skinny old man who rolled his own cigarettes, wore Stetsons, never sat with his back to a window, and told exciting stories about the Old West. A riveting speaker and very loving man, he gave me books about the West of his father’s time which I still own. While he and my grandmother lived in Alhambra, California and I lived in Western New York State we visited each other from time to time. Joe died when I was fifteen.
Gramps wrote his autobiography in 1948 when he was 68 years old. My father never told me about the book, but I learned about it when Aunt Helen, my father’s sister, gave me a copy in 1966. At that time I was 23 and making a trip around the United States, stopping to visit she and my uncle Johnny at their home in Idaho. For decades I had hoped to edit and publish the book, but nothing happened with the manuscript until 2002 when my admin entered it onto computer. By this time, I had written a novel and taken classes in writing at Writers & Books in Rochester.
After editing was complete, I met Dr. Gary Ostrower through a mutual friend. The History Professor from New York’s Alfred University was very impressed with the book and urged me to attend the Western History Association’s annual meeting in Saint Louis in October 2006 to meet with publishers. I spent several days in Saint Louis while presenting the manuscript.
Soon after my return to New York, I was contacted by Truman State University Press who distributed copies to advance readers who reviewed the book.
A few months later, Truman State sent me the excellent reviews from their anonymous readers. I subsequently learned that two of the readers were Texas historian & author Mike Cox and US historian Alfred Runte. Based upon their reviews, Truman State offered to publish my grandfather’s memoir.
I believe the story is totally accurate, as do Truman State’s readers, and partly for the same reasons. Dr. Runte said, “There is no reason for this manuscript to be a hoax. The investment in this amount of material would be substantial, and in some cases hard to glean…The point is that all of the factual materials fall effortlessly into place. The nuances are not strained. Perhaps a Larry McMurtry could have ‘faked’ this manuscript, but it would have taken someone of his knowledge and skills to do so.”
Mr. Cox said, “There are plenty of clues in Fussell’s character as he reveals it (like the time he walked off from the locomotive fireman’s job) that demonstrate his having had the potential for doing what he claims.”
I provided a copy of Unbridled Cowboy to a woman I met in Lubbock last September when I attended the Cowboy Symposium. She wrote recently and told me that she, her father and her grandfather had all worked for the Santa Fe Railroad, and that my grandfather’s descriptions of that company were totally accurate. Based upon the veracity of his description of life at the Santa Fe, she assumed the rest of Gramps’ stories were also true.
Before publishing the book I tried to verify the murderous events in Mexico, but got nowhere. A Mexican priest told me that any records that may have existed were almost certainly destroyed during the Mexican revolution. Furthermore, my father and grandfather were both scrupulously honest, very intelligent men with excellent memories.
On the inside cover of his autobiography my grandfather, in a handwritten note to family members, expressed his hope that many of his, “experiences during childhood, adolescence and early manhood will be accepted with all the tolerance they are able to muster.” Those are not the words of a man who made up his stories.
Reviews and Endorsements for Unbridled Cowboy
“This book has charm and vitality due to the integrity and honesty of the voice. Future generations of readers will greatly benefit…”
– Ron Hansen, Author of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
“richly detailed, entertaining memoir…good reading”
– Dallas Morning News
“one of the most compelling memoirs I have ever read…portions…read like…a Larry McMurtry novel” -Mike Cox, Texana Reviewer, Austin American-Statesman, Author of The Texas Rangers:Wearing the Cinco Peso 1821-1900
“It’s the language that makes this book memorable…readers [go] back to the tumultuous time at the turn of the 19th century when the cowboy gave way to the railroader…an extraordinary story.”
– Mark Busby, Co-Editor, Texas Books in Review
“…an absorbing personal account of a violent and lawless era”
– True West Magazine
“writing…straight from a cowboy’s mouth”
– American Cowboy Magazine
“Unbridled Cowboy is a real find. Fussell is a terrific storyteller…”
“…one of the finest personal reminiscences of life in the American West”
– Alfred Runte, Author of Allies of the Earth: Railroads and the Soul of Preservation
“…riveting true tales of undercover work, life on the railroads, and rough justice. A captivating true life narrative of the wild west.”
– Midwest Book Review