A true story of life as a cowboy, hailed by Larry McMurtry as “a lovely memoir of a world—or at least a West—that no longer exists.”
At age thirteen, Dayton Hyde, a spirited beanpole of a boy, ran away from home in Michigan to Yamsi, his uncle’s ranch in eastern Oregon. This was in the 1930s, and Yamsi was one of the last great cattle ranches of the West. Soon the boy, nicknamed “Hawk,” was riding a horse, soaking up ranch life from the hired hands, and winning the cowboys’ respect.
A natural bronco buster, he eventually became a rodeo rider, bull fighter, clown, and photographer, working all over the West with the likes of Slim Pickens, Rex Allen, and Mel Lambert—all of whom went on to careers in Hollywood—and selling pictures to Life magazine.
After fighting in the Second World War, he took over the reins at Yamsi, ensuring its survival in changing times, and made it his personal mission to save the precious few wild horses that still roamed America.
Now, half a century later, he gives us an ode to that last great period of the Old West. Full of humor, rollicking stories, and love of the land, Pastures of Beyond pays homage to the cowboys, Indians, and great horses that made the West the legend it is today.
“As wistful as it is humorous, this salty memoir is also an elegy for a bygone era.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
At 13, Hyde ran away from home, hopping a train from Wisconsin to his uncle's ranch in Oregon. Like countless other American kids in the 1930s, he wanted to be a cowboy. Hyde became that, and much more: rodeo clown, Life photographer, WWII soldier, author, historian and driving force behind the campaign to save the country's few remaining herds of wild horses. It's a dramatic life story, and Hyde has a raconteur's gift for telling it well. He vividly describes his initiations into the trade of cowboy, enduring the ridicule of grizzled ranch hands with little patience for a gangly teenager. Hyde earns their respect by risking his life to herd cattle through a blizzard; he earns some more by breaking horses no one else is able to tame. After he fights the Nazis, he organizes a rodeo inside a Roman coliseum in liberated France. His adventures over the years are populated with a colorful collection of friends. Some are towering figures who embody the Old West, like the septuagenarian cowboy who thinks nothing of tracking, capturing and taming a wild mustang in a single afternoon. Others seem like characters from a saloon act, like the two drunks who, attempting to dig a grave with dynamite, accidentally blast the surrounding coffins above ground. One especially captivating personality is rodeo clown Slim Pickens, whose lopsided grin would eventually enliven films like Dr. Strangelove and Blazing Saddles. Hyde mourns these figures' passing along with the West he loved. As wistful as it is humorous, this salty memoir is also an elegy for a bygone era. Photos.