Books On The West From Gene W. Baade
By Michael Stillman
Gene W. Baade offers catalogues of "Books on the West." Catalogue 1104 (did he really start with #1?) is a collection of intriguing books and ephemera of both the "Cowboys and Indians" Old West and the more realistic version. Virtually all are priced within the reach of collectors of modest means, and these are books you will not only want to collect, but read as well. Baade's catalogue is a fun read for anyone who likes the Old West, and everyone will find something they especially like within its pages. Here are a few examples.
William S. Hart was the pioneer of the western movie. Hart was born in 1865 in the very un-cowboy town of Newburgh, New York, but spent many of his early years in the Dakotas as his father looked for work. Unlike most Hollywood cowboys that would follow, he actually lived in and experienced the Old West before it completely disappeared. On maturity, Hart returned to New York where he became a Shakespearean actor. He resisted the movies, which received little respect in their early days, but finally succumbed when given the opportunity to portray the West. While Hart included a share of sentimentality and good over evil endings, his portrayals of the West and those who lived there was based on reality. Even the dialogue, limited by the fact that this was still the silent movie era, attempted to portray the rough speech of this rough land. By the time talkies appeared, Hart, once the most popular cowboy of all, had slipped at the box office. After completing what is probably his best film, "Tumbleweeds," in 1925, he dropped from site. Those who followed, from the more glamorous Tom Mix, to the sterile and perfect cowboys like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, are better remembered today, but Hart was the one who portrayed the real cowboy of the Old West. Item 55 is a first edition of his autobiography from 1929, My Life East & West. Priced at $50.
Speaking of cowboys, item 32 is Cow People by J. Frank Dobie. Cow People? I know we use terms like "firefighter" and "flight attendant" to be gender neutral, and that's a good thing, but I think cowboys and cowgirls should always be "cowboys" and "cowgirls," not "cow people." Actually, Dobie was one of the great Texas cowboy writers of the 20th century, and this is undoubtedly a most interesting book. It is a first edition from 1964. $25.
If you ever stayed at some out of the way lodge, you probably signed their guestbook. Ever wonder what happens to these years later, long after the lodge has closed its doors? Here's one answer. Item 9 is the guestbook from Fred and Evelyn Johnson's fishing lodge somewhere along Deer Creek, California. There's a bowlegged cowboy carved in relief on the cover, and he's been hand-painted in orange and yellow. Inside are 14 pages of notes and signatures from the happy campers who visited the lodge between 1938 and 1948. If you're from the area, you may recall some of them. It will take you back to a time when you couldn't take the interstate to get to Deer Creek, and the fish you caught weren't filled with mercury (or if they were, you didn't know it). $100.