Cow-Boys and Colonels

And the American West series continues.

Raw Feed (1992): Cow-Boys and Colonels: Narrative of a Journey Across the Prairie and Over the Black Hills of South Dakota, Edmond Baron de Mandat-Grancey, 1984.Cow-Boys

“Introduction”, Howard R. Lamar — An introduction putting Frenchman de Mandat-Grancey’s jourey in historical perspective, remarking on de Mandat-Grancy’s wit and sharp reporter’s eye as well as his failing as historian and prejudices as a royalist and not a democrat. The man led an enviously varied life traveling not only to the Black Hills but to French Indo-China, Madagascar, and Hong Kong and was a naval officer.

As to the main text, it’s a rare pleasure to read about a place I’ve actually been to and know something about. Grancey is a witty, keen observer. I liked his accurate descriptions of Western dialect, the failings of frontier women and cuisine, his constant attempts to show how America needs a monarchy (like Canada), the adventures he meets, the descriptions of Western life. I was interested to hear of the geography and fauna of the Black Hills in 1883: swamps, rivers (not creeks as now), and mosquitoes — few of these prominent features exist now.

Grancey has some faults. As Howard Lamar points out in the introduction, Grancy is an awful historian. His accounts of Wild Bill Hickok’s death (apart from Jack McCall’s execution in Yankton) and Custer’s Last Stand are strangely, uniquely very inaccurate. I suspect the same holds true for the second hand stories of frontier violence. (Was someone pulling his leg or was he just bad at noting others’ statements?)  Grancey seems determined to show that, while the Americans are marvelously skilled at making money (but not enjoying it), are egalitarian, skilled craftsmen, economically ambitious (he notes their potential threat to France’s economy), they are very violent and in need of monarchy and not democracy.


An index exists for more reviews on books about the American Old West.



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