Once you start “The Last Cowboys,” you won’t want to stop

You can’t take it with you.

People have tried for millennia to keep all their toys but eventually, there comes a time to step aside and pass the baton to the next person who needs a chance. It’s their turn, their time to take things and run. The tricky part, as in the new book “The Last Cowboys” by John Branch, is understanding when let go.

The seventh generation was coming up.

With 13 children and numerous grandchildren, sixth-generation rancher Bill Wright knew that his family’s spread in Utah, near Zion National Park, would likely be passed to one of them someday. Meanwhile, working cattle, maintaining water reservoirs, it was a full-time business, but ranching was in Wright’s blood.

Once, though, for him, there was the rodeo.

That was the other thing Wright, a former bronc rider, had bestowed upon his sons: love of rodeo. His eldest boy, Cody, had reached high-level status as a bronc rider, and Cody’s brothers were moving up the ranks behind him. There was pride in that, not envy, and a dream for Cody that he might someday compete alongside his own sons.

But bronc riding is a hard way to make a living. For eight seconds, a rider must maintain balance, position, and form while astride a bucking, twisting, jumping horse. Points come from rider and horse, both; purses are cumulative and help rank the riders. Injuries are so common, they’re almost expected.

Says Branch, “The next ride might be a winner. Or it might be the last.”

While his sons criss-crossed the country each summer to ride in as many rodeos as possible, Wright cared for the ranch his family loved. He “wasn’t sure about all the talk on climate change” but he knew things weren’t like they used to be. Areas that once had plenty of grass were now drier. Grazing permits for federal lands were a tangle of rules. Ranching got harder and harder each year – but how could he sell a generations-old legacy?

In a way, “The Last Cowboys” is one of the most time-stretching books you’ll ever read.

Half of it is written in eight-second timelines, as author John Branch describes the skill, technique and problems with staying on a rarely-ridden horse long enough to win what could be six-figure payouts. Though it’s difficult to read, Branch writes about how hard such a sport is on a man’s body, and how addicting it can be.

As it should, the other side of this book moseys through 150 years of ranch life. Branch describes beautiful, mountainous views; and dusty pastures often tied to bureaucracy and boundaries. This side gives readers a chance to dwell in the lushness while reading, with sinking feeling, about its dwindling appeal to newer generations.

In the end, the answers are as complicated as are the rules for bronc riding and grazing rights, and readers who cherish the Old West shouldn’t wait to read about this new one. Start “The Last Cowboys,” and you’ll want to take it everywhere with you.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@federalwaymirror.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.federalwaymirror.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Life

Highline student finds her voice

Umoja Black Scholars Program enhances the cultural and educational experiences of African-American students.

Multi-Service Center raises $156,000 at annual Crab Feed

Federal Way’s Multi-Service Center raised funds to support its programs at its annual Crab Feed on June 1.

TLG Motion Pictures CEO Erik Bernard and TLG founder Courtney LeMarco on a set. Photo courtesy TLG Motion Pictures.
Local production company seeking film, TV pitches from young minority creatives

The Big Pitch competition, put on by TLG Motion Pictures (“Hoarders”), started about six months ago.

Relay for Life of South King County moves online

American Cancer Society donations to be taken during May 30 virtual gathering

Federal Way resident organizes “pick-me-up” parade for senior communities

Alder Ridge Senior Apartments and Mill Ridge Village were visited by more than 100 people May 2.

Hometown Hero for April: Longtime resident supports local businesses, families in need through one-eyed selfies

Bruce Honda promotes Federal Way’s local businesses, coordinating with Communities in Schools to help families in need during COVID-19 pandemic.

Auburn Symphony Orchestra announces 2020-21 season

Begins with Summer Series scheduled to start June 21

Medic One Foundation’s Gratitude Meals offer support to first responders, local businesses

The initiative provides hearty lunches to first responders staffing the COVID-19 testing sites as they work to test their colleagues.

Federal Way mother and daughter spread Easter cheer with bunny visits

Maggie and Marianna Cante Tinza visited more than 40 neighborhoods in Federal Way, Auburn, Puyallup and Tacoma on Sunday, April 12.

‘Don’t assume it can’t happen to you’

Federal Way resident Evelyn Allcorn shares story of her husband’s battle with COVID-19 after he tested positive on March 28.

Auburn dance studio finds creative solutions to keep going during COVID-19

Pacific Ballroom Dance moves to online classes; group returned home early from national competition

‘Let There Be Love’ in Federal Way

Centerstage presents the first fully-staged production of the play at the Knutzen Family Theater.