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.
(Truman State University Press, 5/1/08)
Joseph B. Fussell
Unbridled Cowboy is a riveting firsthand account of a defiant hell-raiser in the wild and tumultuous American Southwest in the late 1800s. At the age of fourteen, Joe Fussell hopped trains to escape from school and the authority he scorned. Joe became a roving cowpuncher across the Texas territory, tilling the land, wrangling cattle, and working in livery stables, moving on whenever his feet began to itch.
In a time and place with no law, the young cowboy exacted revenge on those who trespassed against him or those who abused authority. Joe recounts tales of cowboy adventures, narrow escapes, and undercover work as a Texas Ranger. Even after marriage, a spark of his wild cowboy spirit remained during the rise of the railroads in the Southwest when he worked as a switchman and yardmaster.
Joe’s unadorned prose is as exposed and simple as the wide open Texas plains. His unpretentious and unique voice embodies the spirit of the Wild West.
Joseph B. Fussell was born in Tyler, Texas in 1879, the son of a cowboy and buffalo hunter. At fourteen, Joe quit school and ran away from home after nearly killing the school bully.
Fussell trekked across the Southwest working as a cowboy and livery stable operator. As a ranch hand in northern Mexico, he barely escaped the fate of his American friend who died at the bottom of a well.
At 27, he married and began a family. Ten years later, when Mexico was in the throes of civil war, Fussell took a perilous journey to Vera Cruz to check on the suitability of some land for oil drilling. After a stint as an undercover Texas Ranger, Joe began a new career in Arizona as Yardmaster and Librarian for the Santa Fe Railroad. During this time, he became politically active writing compelling letters to politicians and newspapers. After retiring from the Santa Fe in 1945, Fussell moved to California to be near his daughter and family.
With little formal training, Fussell wrote this riveting memoir about real life in the West at the turn of the century. He died in 1957.