In the late nineteenth century, many young Texans were lured by dreams of adventure and fortune into signing up as cowboys on cattle drives to the north. James C. Shaw, a schoolteacher who dreamed of staking out a ranch of his own on the lush northern ranges, was one of those cowboys. Shaw’s story of his cattle trail experiences has become a classic in the literature of the American West.
First privately published in 1931 as a pamphlet titled Pioneering in Texas and Wyoming: Incidents in the Life of James C. Shaw, then edited and annotated by western historian Herbert O. Brayer for publication in 1952, North from Texas describes the fifteen-hundred-mile journey on the Northern Trail. Having set out “to tell in a simple manner” the tale of his journey from South Texas to South Dakota, Shaw offers a rare first-hand account of the hard conditions of the trail and the many “bad men”—horse and cattle thieves, and worse—who inhabited it. Also found in these pages are descriptions of the day-to-day operations of a cattle drive during the era of Texas’ spectacularly large cattle companies and the reign of the “cattle kings” on the northern range.
As Shaw’s narrative heads north on the trail, the reader is offered a tour of several Texas towns still in their formative years, as well as of notorious cow towns such as Dodge City and Ogallala. Even further adventure and more toil were waiting Shaw at the end of the great trail, and his first hard years spent on the Wyoming range are described in realistic detail.