Romanticizing Cowboys and Indians
|• Introduction||• Romanticizing the West|
|• Primitivism||• Ross Santee, Illustrator and Writer|
|• The American Rhythm by Mary Austin||• J. Frank Dobie|
Ross Santee, Illustrator and Writer
While Zane Grey became known for his romantic representations of life in the West, scholars have praised writer and illustrator Ross Santee for his realistic portrayals. Santee was born and raised in Iowa, trained to be a cartoonist at the Chicago Art Institute, and then moved to New York City. Though he sold a few drawings, he became discouraged and went to live with his sister in Gila County, Arizona, in 1915 when he was twenty-seven years old.
Santee himself became a cowboy, working on ranches and participating
cattle roundups and drives. In 1919, he began to return periodically to the East to continue his drawing career, while still working seasonally as a cowboy. A magazine editor convinced him to start writing, and he was regularly producing both stories and illustrations by the time the ranches he had been working for closed in the mid-1920s. Though he lived in Delaware after marrying in 1926, he continued to visit the Southwest regularly and lived there for the final two years of his life in the 1960s.
He discourages readers from idealizing the wrangler's life in the story's first paragraph, stating that "there is no romance in shoeing horses and being pitched over a corral fence." He goes on to describe the drudgery of their daily routine and the lack of respect given to the wranglers, including anecdotes and illustrations of scenes. Other stories in the collection similarly relate tales of hard work and loneliness among men working with animals in the rough Arizona countryside.
Characters from the stories in Men and Horses appear in Santee's later works, including the 1928 Cowboy, often considered to be his autobiography, but really the life story of a fictional East Texas boy who becomes an Arizona cowboy. J. Frank Dobie wrote in his copy of Cowboy, "I guess this is the best story of the making of a cowboy yet written... It's all so true and natural and genuine."
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