The Day the Cowboys Quit
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The Day the Cowboys Quit

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  236 ratings  ·  19 reviews
“The Day the Cowboys Quit was inspired by an historic event, a strike against large ranches on the Texas high plains, when the encroachment of an Eastern corporate mentality drove freedom-loving cowboys to drastic measures—no matter the cost.”--Elmer Kelton

In later years people often asked Hugh Hitchcock about the Canadian River cowboy strike of 1883.

Wagon boss Hugh Hitchc...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 5th 2008 by Forge Books (first published November 28th 1985)
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I'd like to say this book was all cowboy, it sure felt that way as I was listening to it. It's all about the big ranchers versus the little ranchers, and the old-style way of ranching moving over for the new ways. But there is so much more to it about human character, from good to bad. I loved one critical point of the story where the "hero", after being robbed and almost killed by the "big guys" has an opportunity to get back. After taking the first dishonest step, he stops. He thinks about his...more
Jackson Burnett
"The Day the Cowboys Quit" tells the story of a group of Texas cattle hands going on strike against the big ranchers in the late 1800's. It's based on a real event. Kelton is a subtle storyteller and this is one Western where you really aren't sure what is going to happen. The book would have gotten five stars, but it slowed too much in the middle. It's a good book for those who enjoy Westerns but are tired of the guy in the white hat just fighting the guys in the black hats.
Kelton's novel has some of the ingredients of pulp western fiction - big ranchers against the little guys, justice at the end of a rope, an honorable hero wearing a sheriff's badge - but he brings a great deal of insight, experience, and historical background to the task of telling this story. It is enjoyable and full of well-drawn characters and unexpected turns of plot from beginning (a squabble over the brand on a cow) to the end (a gripping courtroom drama).

The title suggests that the book m...more
It's the rare western book that invites a Marxian analysis, but Elmer Kelton, who died recently, was the rare western writer.

"The Day the Cowboys Quit," takes place at the intersection of rugged American individualism and the collective efforts of the undercapitalized to improve their lot.

The book renders a cowboys' strike - a fascinating concept - that actually happened, on ranches in the Canadian River region of west Texas circa 1883.

By Kelton's lights, the strike occurred in the crucible o...more
Audio version- I have been a fan of Loius L'Amour westerns since high school. But somehow Elmer Kelton slipped my attention. This novel had a very memorable main character who experiences significant personal challenges and redeems himself through making good choices. The economic and societal themes are apparent and it is interesting how the author uses a western setting to explore these. This is only the second novel by this author which I have read, it surely won't be my last.
Texas, 1883. The big ranchers decide they don't want any cowboys owning cattle, and the cowboys protest by going on strike. It doesn't come out quite like any of them expect. Our hero, Hugh Hitchcock, is one of the strikers, but he's not very happy about it. Hitch is a great character, and watching him change is a big part of what makes this book a very enjoyable read.
Elmer Kelton (, author of The Day the Cowboys Quit has been voted as the best western writer by the Western Writers of America; 7 of his books, including this one, have received the Spur Award for Best Western Novel of the Year from the same association. He has received the Barbara McCombs/Lon Tinkle Award for "continuing excellence in Texas letters" from the Texas Institute of Letters; the Lone Star Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Larry McMurtry Center for Arts and...more
Biju Bhaskar
Elmer Kelton has done a good job in chronicling the changes in Texas in the 1880s when the land changes from being a raw frontier to one that is more settled. As the buffaloes were shot out of existence and some pioneers wrested large fortunes in the shape of cattle ranches and herds, cowboys were an integral part of the landscape.

However, as times change and the big ranchers try to consolidate their holdings, they treat the cowboys as just resources to be used and discarded. When the Ranchers t...more
This story was about an actual cowboy strike in Texas in the 1880's. The cowboys didn't win the strike against the wealthy land owners, but they came out ahead in honor and humanity. And of course, how could a story be told where the wealty land owners were the real winners. It wouldn't be believable and nobody would read it.
But the story is really about a man's values regarding loyalty, friendship and honesty. The book was actually humorous but in a tragic setting. The genre is western, but the...more
Will Plunkett
I had recently read Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle, and I wondered how different the two strikes' interpretations would be. Both are about money and miscommunication, plus the basics of life and entitlement. In the end, nothing good came from the strikes, and lives were lost. But Kelton's characterizations are strong, and they aren't the clear "good guy" or "bad guy" of some western stories; each is flawed and human, even if the reader cheers for or roots against certain ones. I can see why this...more
Elmer Kelton sure knows how to write Westerns. This was a really good book about the consequences of a strike among cowboys in the Texas Panhandle that is loosely based on a actual strike that took place in 1883. The story centers around a cowboy named Hugh Hitchcock who goes from being a wagon boss for a large ranch to running for sheriff. The story could be set during any time in any industry, but it was a very interesting look into what could happen if Cowboys went on strike for higher wages.
Books by Elmer Kelton are classic western, full of detailed and well-researched historical events, lone heroes, and nostalgia. The Day the Cowboys Quit is a good place to start.

Books by Elmer Kelton are classic westerns similar to Louis L’Amour, full of detailed and well-researched historical events, lone heroes, and nostalgia. The Day the Cowboys Quit is a good place to start.
Wilson Lanue
Based on the true story of the Panhandle cowboy strike of 1883.

It is primarily a psychological study of the forces involved: The blue-collar code of loyalty versus the requirement for personal freedom. As such, it is slightly repetitive, perhaps a bit dry at times as well. But very good, and an excellent depiction of the Texas mindset at one point in time.
This was a western that was based on a real incident. Prior to the labor unions, a group of cowboys get disgruntled and refuse to work. Far from being a typical western with shootouts, etc. the realistic response of these people to a realistic situation. An excellent novel-- offbeat western.
I really learned a lot from this book. it is on the list of 25 best western westerns ever written. (And, I do like westerns.) it is about the time when the law came to the west. It is about strike and bad and good desisions and where they lead. it is about the people of the west and "Cowboying up."
Jeff Dickison
A very good book, a fictionalized tale of a true cowboy strike that occurred in the Canadian River section of Texas. Kelton is an excellent writer and his lead character is a man of great common sense who is reluctantly drawn into the strike. Recommended!
Dan Panke
This is a different type of western. Who ever heard of cowboys striking? Somehow the story works and portrays the feel of truth.
Todd Zywicki
Great story about the clash between the o,d and new west and the bringing of the rule of law and civilization to the frontier.
Based on a true story of a cowboy strike in the Panhandle of Texas in the 1880's. A very good story told by a great author.
Mike added it
Jun 16, 2014
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Elmer Kelton (1926-2009) was award-winning author of more than forty novels, including The Time It Never Rained, Other Men’s Horses, Texas Standoff and Hard Trail to Follow. He grew up on a ranch near Crane, Texas, and earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas. His first novel, Hot Iron, was published in 1956. Among his awards have been seven Spurs from Western Writers of America and...more
More about Elmer Kelton...
The Time It Never Rained The Good Old Boys The Buckskin Line (Texas Rangers, #1) Badger Boy (Texas Rangers, #2) The Pumpkin Rollers

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