"The vibrancy of the frontier flows through, refusing, like the prairie wind, to be contained . . . Cowboys, outlaws, celebrated chieftains, mere murderers, disappearing buffalo, whisky peddlers, the first Black and Chinese Albertans, missionaries, cattle barons and brave police men move in a continuous cavalcade in the magic–lantern show of our imagination in these pages." —from the foreword by Sid Marty.
Journalist Leroy Victor Kelly's The Range Men chronicles the early days of ranching in southwestern Alberta, from the arrival of the first large herds in 1876 through to 1913, when the book was first published. Kelly gathered material from the records of the North West Mounted Police, William Pearce's government reports, the Calgary Herald the Macleod Gazette and other publications, and collected anecdotes from old-time stockmen such as George Lane and John Ware.
A window into the period after the buffalo but before extensive settlement, The Range Men paints a vivid, engrossing and sometimes unflattering picture of colonial life and attitudes. The struggling ranchers of the vanguard were learning everything as they went, from how to breed stock to how to get their herds through the winter.
The ranchers of the first few years in Alberta showed certain defects of judgment and inexperience—the overcrowding of choice ranges, the promiscuous mixing of different breeds of stock, the careless dependence on the chinook winds to bring the cattle safely through the winter months.
Kelly's unvarnished account of the relentless march of "progress," as settlements were built and big ranches like the Cochrane, the Medicine Hat and the Bar U were born, notes the impact of farming on the wild prairie ecology and documents treaty betrayals and efforts to reduce and "subdue" First Nations through smallpox and rum. More than a story of cattle trades and the hard beginnings of the Alberta cowboy, The Range Men is an authentic and important slice of history.