Real Wild West

Michael Wallis, Author St. Martin's Press $35 (640p) ISBN 978-0-312-19286-0
After reading Wallis's lively history, even readers who had never heard of the 101 Ranch will feel as if they've known of it all their lives. At its height, George W. Miller's 101 Ranch, so named in 1893, covered 110,000 acres in what is now Oklahoma. It was not only a ranching empire but also a western legend. In fact, as Wallis (Route 66: the Mother Road) tells it, the 101 played a critical role in creating the West as it came to exist in the American popular imagination. The 101 staged elaborate Wild West shows and was largely responsible for Hollywood's infatuation with the West (which in turn was responsible for the country's infatuation). Will Rogers, Tom Mix and the famous African-American cowboy Bill Pickett performed in the 101's shows, and the ranch itself was a favorite filming location for many early Hollywood westerns. Readers will quickly turn the pages, as Wallis portrays larger-than-life characters such as Lucille Mulhall, billed as the ""original cowgirl,"" of whom Wallis writes: ""Weighing less than a pair of fancy Mexican saddles, Lucille not only threw steers and busted broncs but also stalked prairie wolves, branded cattle, and roped as many as eight running range horses at once. She was an absolute showstopper."" Miller's sons kept the 101 alive until the Depression, after which the ranch was divided into small farms. Full of amazing stories--virtually a who's who of popular Western culture--Wallis's book tells a tale of people in whom genuine accomplishment and show-biz promotion fused in a marriage as quintessentially American as the idea of the Wild West itself. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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