Cover image for The true life Wild West memoir of a bush-popping cow waddy
The true life Wild West memoir of a bush-popping cow waddy
Hester, Charley, 1853-1940.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
xix, 141 pages : illustrations, 1 map ; 21 cm
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Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F596 .H47 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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A sixteen-year-old runaway from Illinois, Charley Hester (1853-1940) lit out from home in 1869, bound to make a life for himself on the great American frontier. In the winter of his life seven decades later, he dictated an account of his experiences in the Wild West of his youth. Charley Hester's memoir recounts the journeys that took him to Missouri, Texas, Indian Territory, Kansas, and Nebraska and brought him face-to-face with badman John Wesley Hardin as well as Joel Collins before Collins formed his band of stagecoach and train robbers. The young cow waddy also tells of meeting Wild Bill Hickok, observing Doc Holliday's deft card play, and witnessing the waylaying of a drunken buffalo hunter by Wyatt Earp.

In his own colorful language, Hester relates stories ranging from high jinks on the trail to a heart-stopping surprise encounter with Indians, as well as conflicts with nature in the form of blizzards, cyclones, quicksand, swollen rivers, bad water, prairie fires, and electrical storms. So engaging that they figured in Warner Brothers' research for the classic movie Dodge City , Hester's adventures are the stuff of true Americana: history rendered in bolder strokes and brighter colors than the most outlandish fiction, as outrageous and outrageously entertaining as it is true.

After life as a cowpoke on the Chisholm and Western Trails, Hester eventually settled in Phillips County, Kansas, and then in Dundy County, Nebraska, where he helped his brother build a ranching empire.

Author Notes

Kirby Ross is Charley's great-great-grandson and resides in Kansas, where he is a feature writer for the online magazine and is completing his next book.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Ross, Hester's great-great-grandson, tells of hearing stories told by his great-grandmother about her father, Charley Hester. Before becoming a farmer and family man in Kansas, Hester had been a cowboy on the Chisholm Trail. He met Wild Bill Hickok, chased buffalo, tangled with Indians, and encountered blizzards, prairie fires, and cyclones. One story that made the rounds in Ross' family held that Charley was the inspiration for Errol Flynn's character in the 1939 film Dodge City. Then several years ago, Ross' grandmother gave him a box of Hester's memorabilia, which contained a variety of photographs and documents, including a newspaper clipping reporting how Warner Brothers interviewed Hester three times during the making of the movie. Ross then discovered that a museum in Benkelman, Nebraska, maintains a Hester Room, and that the Sarah Ann Hester Memorial Home, named for Charley's mother, sits on a hill overlooking the town. His memoir is first-rate early American history. --George Cohen Copyright 2004 Booklist