Western Heritage, edited by Paul Andrew Hutton (University of Oklahoma Press, $19.95), is an excellent selection of prize-winning magazine articles chosen annually by Oklahoma City’s renowned National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
All are fine choices; Hutton picks the best of the best for this anthology, twelve of the 50 winners of the museum’s Wrangler award (also known as the Western Heritage award). All, but one, are short. The exception, celebrating past and present (1980) of the King Ranch, runs to 73 pages. Compare this, for example, with C.L. “Doc” Sonnichsen’s nine-page view of the “remodeling” of Geronimo’s reputation, from demonized savage to Apache patriot. Of course, had the King Ranch chapter not been included, several more articles could have “made the cut.”
Hutton evaluates each article for its story (readability) as well as content, since the museum cherishes the storytelling ability of contributors like Dan Flores (buffalo); Robert Utley (Texas Rangers); and Hutton, himself (the Alamo; Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in Cuba). Through their works, all of these authors share the museum’s mission: “to preserve and interpret the evolving history and cultures of the American West.”
The subjects covered in this collection are quite varied—Charlie Russell’s pro-Indian stance; Philip Nolan’s early mustang trade; the rumors, suspicions and betrayal leading to the killing of Crazy Horse. Outstanding among them all is Sally Denton’s re-examination of the West’s worst atrocity—the Mountain Meadows Massacre of California-bound emigrants by Mormon militia and Paiutes. (Disclosure: Paul Andrew Hutton is the magazine’s Historical Consultant.)