For most of this book, I was slow rolling cattle, meandering north to Montana. There was always more to graze over the next rise, along the next stretch of plain, another watering place just farther on. Still, the slow turn of pages rambled on, one after another. Long stretches of not much, just rambling inconsequential chat and cattle, punctuated by brief, intense moments of violence and death.
What is a good life? If it’s a life examined, then all the cowboys here fail the test. Again and again and again these men are faced with a chance to have a real connection, to make something good. Again and again and again, they turn away from that. There’s a reason all these men seek out relentless tasks, a near infinite sequence of inconsequential things, until their death arrives.
Don’t pity these men, though. Their stomping, rampaging, thoughtless lives cause harm to all the women and children around them, who make do and carry on as best they can in spite of it all.
These men are not without their charms, however, and it’s easy to see why this book is beloved. Although, on reading it, it’s tough to see how a person would romanticize this time period.