Cowboys, Indians, and Gunfighters (Atheneum, 1993)

Cowboys, Indians, and Gunfighters: The Story of the Cattle Kingdom

Albert Marrin

In 1521, six months before the fall of the Aztec capital at Mexico City, a shipload of the very first cattle to be seen on the North American continent arrived form the Spanish settlement of Hispaniola. Herman Cortes himself went into the cattle business. The Mexican cattle industry grew and prospered and spilled over into the land called Texas. This is the story of that lively period of American history when ranchers and cowboys ruled the Great Plains. The reader learns abut roundups and long trail drives, and the truth about Wild Bill Hickok, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, black rodeo star Bill Pickett and other famous westerners. We meet the Comanche the finest horseman of the Great Plains. We find out how the ranchers expansion, ever northward, led to the deliberate destruction of the buffalo by white hunters and sped the end of the Plains Indians’ way of life.


Beginning with the introduction of horses and cattle to North America, Marrin chronicles the changes brought to the Great Plains as ranchers encroached on the area, particularly during the 1800s. Debunking the romantic images, this discussion clarified who cowboys were, what they did, and how they viewed their lives. While Marrin is graphic, perhaps too graphic, in describing scalping and other atrocities performed by Indians on pioneers, he balances the political scale by bluntly relating the massacres of Indians by cavalry troops, the bounties paid by some state governments for Indian scalps, the swift, senseless slaughter of the buffalo herds, and the relentless destruction of the Native American way of life. . . . Marrin’s inclusion of concrete details and his engaging writing style make this an exceedingly reliable account of a unique and turbulent period in American history.