“George Philip’s recollections of life as a cowboy on the South Dakota range at the turn of the 20th century are as fresh as an unbroken bronc, yet seasoned with the mature reflection that only age and experience bring. Philip is a delightful tale teller in the tradition of Andy Adams and ("Teddy Blue") Abbott.”—B. Byron Price, Director, Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West
“George Philip’s highly literate letters, written to his children some seventy years ago, present a cowboy’s first-hand view of an open-range era long since vanished. Often funny, occasionally sad, they sparkle with life.”—Elmer Kelton, author of The Good Old Boys
“Within the large body of autobiographies, letters, and memoirs of cowboy life, George Philip’s recollections rank among the best.”—Richard W. Slatta, from the afterword
As a young man, George Philip emigrated from Scotland to escape a harsh apprenticeship. In 1899, he arrived on the doorstep of his uncle, James (“Scotty”) Philip, patriarch of one of South Dakota’s foremost ranching families. For the next four years, Philip rode as a cowboy for his uncle’s L-7 cattle outfit during the heyday of the last open range. But the cowboy era was a brief one, and in 1903 Philip turned in his string of horses and hung up his saddle to enter law school in Michigan. With a law degree in hand, he returned to South Dakota to practice in the wide-open western towns of Fort Pierre, Philip, and Rapid City. In these candid letters, Philip tells his children that his life was an ordinary one, but his memoirs quickly dispel that notion. He provides fascinating insights into the development of the West and of South Dakota. His writing details the cowboy’s day-to-day work, from branding and roping to navigating across the plains by stars and buttes as the great open ranges slowly closed up. The places and characters of the range find life in Philip’s mixture of humor, hard-nosed “horse-sense," and poignant reflection.
"[Philip] was a natural born yarn spinner."—True West
"An entertaining and insightful look into the day-to-day life of a cowboy during the heyday years of the open range."—Reference & Research Book News
"Each [letter] is virtually a mini-essay designed to extol the realities of cowboy life . . . "—True West
"George Philip's letters are a pleasure to read . . . "—James D. McLaird, South Dakota History
Click on the link to read an excerpt from chapter one.