Classic Books about Southwestern New Mexico

These books capture the derring-do, hardship and wonder of living on this patch in New Mexico prior to its more populous settlement. There is lovely detail in them–a prospector’s pet bear cub. Reading a newspaper in the wilderness in the light of a full moon. A girl playing cards all night with possible cattle thieves, to deter them from stealing her family’s cows. A boy emerging from cow camp with body lice. My favorite is a description of such a huge herd of antelope on the San Augustin Plain the llano seemed covered by moving sands.

The Ben Lilly Legend. J. Frank Dobie. The story of the legendary Ben Lilly, Gila Wilderness hound man and hunter. (non-fiction) University of Texas Press.

Black Range Tales. James A. McKenna. McKenna’s accounts of early prospecting and Indian raids in the Gila Country are a valuable resource. (non-fiction) High-Lonesome Press, Silver City, NM.

Cow Dust and Saddle Leather. Ben Kemp with J. C. Dykes. Mrs. Kemp introduced watercress into the streams of the Gila Wilderness and National Forest. (non-fiction) University of Oklahoma Press. Out of print.

Meet Mr. Grizzly: A Saga on the Passing of the Grizzly Bear. Montague Stevens. Catron County’s own British-born “remittance” man: Stevens’ writing about grizzly bears, training hounds, and ranching can’t be beat. (non-fiction) High Lonesome Press.

No Life for a Lady. Agnes Morley Cleaveland. Mrs. Cleaveland’s autobiographical work about growing up on a cattle ranch near Datil. (non-fiction) University of Nebraska Press.

Open Range: The Life of Agnes Morley Cleaveland. Darlis Miller. This complements Mrs. Cleaveland’s autobiography and provides detail about her adult life. (non-fiction) University of Oklahoma Press.

Old Magdalena Cow Town. Langford Ryan Johnston. “A glimpse into the romantic life of the typical southwestern cowboys” during the first half of the twentieth century. (non-fiction) Bandar Logs, Inc.

Recollections of a Western Ranchman. Captain William French. One of the area’s classics of cattle ranching lore, Indian raids, the Elfego Baca gunfight, and Butch Cassidy’s days at the WS Ranch, just north of Alma, NM. (non-fiction) High-Lonesome Press.

The Sea of Grass. Conrad Richter. The wonderful operatic saga of a cattle baron and his family, set on the San Augustin Plain when cattle was king. (fiction) Knopf, out of print. There was a 1947 movie with the same title, starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburne with supporting actors Melvyn Douglas, Phyllis Thaxter, and Edgar Buchanan.

Slash Ranch Hounds. Dub Evans. “Mr. Dub’s” tales of the hunting and hounds at the celebrated Slash Ranch. High-Lonesome Press, Silver City, NM. (reprint of a formerly scarce title)

Tales from the Bloated Goat: Early Days in the Mogollons. H. A. Hoover. Hoover’s reminiscences about life in Mogollon begin with his diary entries in 1904. Burros were employed when moving furniture from house to house. (non-fiction)High-Lonesome Press, Silver City, NM.

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