—Hal Cannon, founding director, Western Folklife Center and National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
—Frank M. King
—David Stanley, coeditor of Cowboy Poets and Cowboy Poetry
In the world of cowboy poetry, no poet is better known or more widely appreciated than Bruce Kiskaddon. Though he died in 1950, his poems have been at the forefront of the cowboy poetry revival that began in the 1980s and have been reprinted frequently in published collections and anthologies. What is less known is that Kiskaddon during his lifetime also published stories. These humorous, realistic prose sketches of cowboy life were almost lost, but they are in their own right gems of literary Americana on a par with the poems. Originally published in the Western Livestock Journal between 1932 and 1939, the short stories drew on Kiskaddon's experiences ranching in the Southwest and Australia to portray real life on the range. Bill Siems has recovered these stories and compiled and introduced them in this new collection, to which he has added a selection of Kiskaddon's poems and the original, accompanying drawings by Katherine Field, a fine, underappreciated western artist.
Set in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, the stories are a loosely tied string of old timer's yarns with a continuing cast of engaging characters, whom Kiskaddon avoids reducing to cowboy stereotypes. They include, as Siems describes them, "Kiskaddon himself as the character Shorty. As a common waddy with a small man's feistiness and a young man's mischief, Shorty encounters the wicked world with a succession of companions: Bill, high-headed and a bit of an outlaw; Rildy Briggs, untamable and unstoppable young cowgirl; and Ike, an old-fashioned dandy and 'a very fortunate person.' More or less in the background is the Boss—actually a series of Bosses—generally affectionately respected as long as he remains democratic in his dealings with the waddies. Buffoonery is provided by a succession of pompous characters, from townspeople who look down their noses on wild, unwashed waddies to professors from the East who have read books on how ranches should be run."