A Book Report by Nancy Ohnick
copyright Nancy Ohnick
Lost Trails of the Cimarron
By Harry E. Chrisman
Harry Chrisman spent most of his career as a reporter for the Southwest Daily Times in Liberal, Kan. He had a passion for the history of what has been termed the “Cimarron Country,” a region that includes southwestern Kansas, southeastern Colorado, and the neutral strip of Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. Chrisman left several books as his legacy, of which “Lost Trails of the Cimarron” is considered one of his best efforts. The book was written in 1961, and is still in print today.
Chrisman’s style of research involved extensive visits with “old timers,” getting his stories first hand from the people who lived them. I can certainly forgive the occasional inaccuracy in his facts in appreciation for the colorful way they are presented. He doesn’t use tedious footnotes, rather gives his sources in the back of the book by page number… a style that let’s the reader further explore if he wants to, but doesn’t clutter the page and interrupt the reader’s train of thought.
In his introduction Chrisman writes: “The nature of pioneer life along the Cimarron, whether that of the buffalo hunters or of the cattlemen in the 1870s and 1880s, was not one to produce writers or artists with the time and talent to document their deeds with words and with pictures. As a consequence, the broken and twisted trails left by them are now almost entirely wiped from the face of the earth, their stories forgotten. With the hope that a book of anecdotes, reminiscences and folk stories might again help to reveal these lost trails of the Cimarron, this book was compiled and written.”
Through the pages of this book you will become familiar with the buffalo hunters who were the first white men to come to Cimarron Country in the 1870s. You will ride range with the cowboys and learn the plight of the women on the frontier. You will learn of the trails, why they were forged and how they were used. You will learn of the outlaws and ruffians of "No Man’s Land" and the trail drives to Dodge City and beyond… and all the while you will be caught up in the story… not wanting to put it down.
One of my favorite parts of this book is a map placing the different cattle outfits by brand where they occupied open range. In the back of the volume is a listing of brands from the 1885 Brand Book of the Western Kansas Cattle Growers Association, listing the name of the owner, the foreman, and an illustration of the brand. With these two tools you can, at a glance, determine where the old ranches were located.
Any reader interested in the wild, wild west will get a good glimpse of it through the pages of this book. Any reader with roots in this region will have a new appreciation for the people who settled here… as Chrisman recreates the men and women whose lives are the true “Lost Trails of the Cimarron.”
Title: “Lost Trails of the Cimarron”
Author: Harry E. Chrisman
Published by University of Oklahoma Press, Norman
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