Once you start “The Last Cowboys,” you won’t want to stop

You can’t take it with you.

People have tried for millennia to keep all their toys but eventually, there comes a time to step aside and pass the baton to the next person who needs a chance. It’s their turn, their time to take things and run. The tricky part, as in the new book “The Last Cowboys” by John Branch, is understanding when let go.

The seventh generation was coming up.

With 13 children and numerous grandchildren, sixth-generation rancher Bill Wright knew that his family’s spread in Utah, near Zion National Park, would likely be passed to one of them someday. Meanwhile, working cattle, maintaining water reservoirs, it was a full-time business, but ranching was in Wright’s blood.

Once, though, for him, there was the rodeo.

That was the other thing Wright, a former bronc rider, had bestowed upon his sons: love of rodeo. His eldest boy, Cody, had reached high-level status as a bronc rider, and Cody’s brothers were moving up the ranks behind him. There was pride in that, not envy, and a dream for Cody that he might someday compete alongside his own sons.

But bronc riding is a hard way to make a living. For eight seconds, a rider must maintain balance, position, and form while astride a bucking, twisting, jumping horse. Points come from rider and horse, both; purses are cumulative and help rank the riders. Injuries are so common, they’re almost expected.

Says Branch, “The next ride might be a winner. Or it might be the last.”

While his sons criss-crossed the country each summer to ride in as many rodeos as possible, Wright cared for the ranch his family loved. He “wasn’t sure about all the talk on climate change” but he knew things weren’t like they used to be. Areas that once had plenty of grass were now drier. Grazing permits for federal lands were a tangle of rules. Ranching got harder and harder each year – but how could he sell a generations-old legacy?

In a way, “The Last Cowboys” is one of the most time-stretching books you’ll ever read.

Half of it is written in eight-second timelines, as author John Branch describes the skill, technique and problems with staying on a rarely-ridden horse long enough to win what could be six-figure payouts. Though it’s difficult to read, Branch writes about how hard such a sport is on a man’s body, and how addicting it can be.

As it should, the other side of this book moseys through 150 years of ranch life. Branch describes beautiful, mountainous views; and dusty pastures often tied to bureaucracy and boundaries. This side gives readers a chance to dwell in the lushness while reading, with sinking feeling, about its dwindling appeal to newer generations.

In the end, the answers are as complicated as are the rules for bronc riding and grazing rights, and readers who cherish the Old West shouldn’t wait to read about this new one. Start “The Last Cowboys,” and you’ll want to take it everywhere with you.

More in Life

Barkfest & Rover Romp returns to the park on Aug. 25

Benefit for lost, abandoned and homeless animals at Auburn Valley Humane Society

AuburnFest Literary Showcase returns Aug. 11

Free poetry, writing workshops event comes to the Community & Event Center

Auburn-area community calendar | Aug. 3

Entertainment, special events and benefit show listings

Heavier Than Air Family Theatre Company presents ‘The Wizard of Oz’

Student cast brings classic to the Green River College stage Aug. 3-4

Rainbow Café welcomes the works of Smiraldo and Hutchings on Monday, Aug. 6

For the Reporter Poetry at the Rainbow Café presents the works of… Continue reading

Auburn-area library programming | KCLS | August

Libraries Auburn Library, 1102 Auburn Way S. 253- 931-3018. Library events include:… Continue reading

Riding high

Boeing Saddle Club Performance Horse Show returns to Reber Ranch

Dive into the story of the average gig-employee

Your allowance was never enough, as a kid. Oh, sure, it bought… Continue reading

“Rebel Talent” will make you wish your employees have the core elements

Your latest hire came highly recommended. His former employer spoke very favorably… Continue reading

A stronger connection: Crisis clinic has new name, brand to better reflect its community

Since 1964, Crisis Clinic has been one of the leading providers of… Continue reading

You’ll be up on your feet after reading ‘And Then We Danced’

You can’t stop your feet. They need to move, to tap-tap-tap, to… Continue reading

We still have work to do to destigmatize suicide | GUEST OP

Like any other medical condition, mental illness is treatable and often curable