Historic Ranches of the Old West, by Bill O’Neal, Eakin Press (an imprint of Sunbelt Media, Inc., Austin, Texas), 1997, $28.95.
Bill O’Neal has taken close looks at gunfighters, Indian fighters, range wars and ghost towns in some of his other books about the West, and now he focuses on the ranches of the frontier. Anyone who likes to keep his or her sights on Western horizons should delight in O’Neal’s latest “vision.” Famous ranches such as the King Ranch, the 101 Ranch, the Four Sixes Ranch, the Swan Two Bar, the TA Ranch, Hash Knife, Grant-Kohrs Ranch and Dog Canyon Ranch keep coming up in Western histories, but many of us don’t really know much about them. Now, it’s easy to learn more. And the book will aid Western travelers, too. “A number of the old spreads remain in operation,” O’Neal writes, “still utilizing the brands and ranch buildings from the nineteenth century, or at least functioning as guest ranches.” One of his chapters deals with “Ranches to Visit.” In all, O’Neal covers more than 50 historic ranches, including 14 in Texas and nine in Wyoming. Along with the ranches, O’Neal naturally has plenty of information about famous ranch bosses such as John Chisolm in New Mexico and Alexander Hamilton Swan in Wyoming. Pictures, maps and interesting sidebars corralled inside barbed-wire borders help make this book one worth putting your brand on.