Book Recco

March 2, 2021 |

Gary Boddicker  writes:

I recently picked up on a recommendation from Ryan Holiday’s excellent reading newsletter: 

Panoramic history of what could be America’s first nationwide industry with entrepreneurs and risk takers for days: the decimation of the buffalo, cow town stock yard developments,  “assembly line” manufacturing predating Mr.Ford and his automobiles, refrigerated rail cars, “dead meat” exports to Europe, Delmonico’s, a great big commodity speculative bubble fueled in part by global investors in the US industry…plus the real skinny on life as a cowboy, cattle drive misery, gunfights (or the lack thereof)… very well written, engaging tale, with characters galore. I’m halfway through and it’s not easily put down. Highly recommend. 

Stefan Jovanovich writes:

If GB's review were on Amazon, it would join many others.  Mine would be tucked away at the bottom and would probably be rejected for being unkind to authors …..

Knowlton has written a lazy book.  To think that the beef ranching, stockyard and wholesale butchering trades were "America’s first nationwide industry" you have to know less than nothing about American history.  Mr. Swift Cowboys and cattle drives were a minor adjunct to a secondary business for the railroads.  They disappeared as soon as the spur lines were built out.  There is also some pure crap: "A direct link connects vigilante justice on the open range and U.S. involvement in Vietnam." I recommend a few minutes reading about the SRL as an emetic.


Gary Boddicker  writes:

Stephan- in fairness to the “lazy” book, there is a good discussion of the SRL development you highlight including Swift’s fight with the rail lines, who preferred perpetuating the more lucrative live cattle shipping they had been enjoying, and his ultimate victory. The “emetic” was included. In fact, the major railroad’s market hold had to be “overcome” at a couple junctures in the book…usually by utilizing smaller competitors. 
The discussion of Swift’s further battle to get “refrigerated meat” accepted by East Coast butchers and consumers reminded me of my formative years when my father was fighting a similar war to get IBP’s innovative “boxed beef” accepted in the same protected, unionized,”mobbed up,” markets:
As to “nationwide,” That wasn’t the author’s claim, but my hyperbole. It’s possible I spent too many Saturday mornings in Denison packing houses, Sioux City stockyards “smells like money”, and Plainview feedlots and I was willing to give “Beef” an outsized designation having stumbled across this history. Still have a little romance in my heart for that tough industry, its people, and the western geography. ;) Also love a good steak. 
Vietnam? No clue. Haven’t read that yet.  Agree that smells like BS more than napalm smells like victory. Does he mention Robert Duvall’s hat and the Air Cav?

Stefan Jovanovich  writes:

Thx, GB.  I am being unfair.  And I have no good excuse.  The author's first book about the Florida land rush bugged me because the author made a reach to compare that episode with the 2008/9 bubble without regard to their relative magnitudes.  (If any real estate bust in the 1920s was comparable, it was Chicago's).  So, reading your comments, I thought "here we go again".  Flipping through electronic pages and using my own version of the Hitler test (bad thinking always gets to some mention of the Fuhrer or Viet-Nam) is not reading or thinking or even vigilante literary justice.  Time once again to wash out my smart aleck mouth with a mea culpa

Gary Boddicker  writes:

No worries Stefan, always enjoy your perspective…also, based on past posts,  I am quite certain you’ve forgotten more of American History than I’ve ever known. I hope to continue to learn from you


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