The tone was warm, conversational, the content overflowing with West Texas history learned and experienced firsthand and delivered by a true storyteller.
Details of ranching’s open range days and long trails gleaned from his father and old cow hands he worked with as a youngster, to his experiences of growing up during the Great Depression and coming of age in the Army in WW II, Kelton’s sly humor wove all these elements together like a hand pieced quilt.
Meeting his Austrian bride in wartime Europe and her adaption to Texas, his early struggles to make a living as a writer–something his father didn’t see as honest work—and describing the many down-to-earth and fascinating people he met on the sometimes bumpy road to success, Kelton made me want to go back and reread his novels so I could pinpoint just where his well drawn characters had come from.
Realizing early that he did not possess the sharp ranching skills of his brothers he was saddened by his poor cowboying, but learned in 5th grade that he was really very near-sighted and simply couldn’t see how to accomplish many of the tasks he’d tried to perform on horseback.
Kelton was humble throughout his life; though ranching lost a working cowboy, the literary worked gained a strong advocate for Western history and lore.
A quote from True West magazine summed it up well with, “One thing is certain: As long as there are writers as skillful as Elmer Kelton, Western literature will never die.”
When Kelton passed away in 2009, the writing world lost a great one.
Be sure to check out Patty’s blog!