Michelle K. Berry, "Cow Talk: Work, Ecology, and Range Cattle Ranchers in the Postwar Mountain West" (U Oklahoma Press, 2023)

Summary

How did ranching become an identity? University of Arizona historian Michelle Berry explains in Cow Talk: Work, Ecology, and Western Ranchers in the Postwar Mountain West (U Oklahoma Press, 2023). During the middle decades of the twentieth century, small-scale ranchers weathered a series of crisis, rolled with increasing changes to their labor and lives, and communicated with one another through professional organizations. By engaging in "Cow Talk" - shop talk, about cows - ranchers learned each about one another's shared struggles, and gained a sense of common experience. Through professional rancher's groups, they were able to thus present a strong, united, front in politics, despite the very real disagreements and schisms behind the scenes. 

Cow Talk examines an understudied era in Western ranching history, after the rise and fall of the massive ranches of the nineteenth century West, and before the news media first learned the name Ammon Bundy. Berry provides a nuanced and empathetic look at how ranching labor and Western environments helped shape a group of people more complex and with a deeper history than one might think.

Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

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Stephen Hausmann

Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and is the Acting Executive Director of the American Society for Environmental History.

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