xx, 236 pages
Illustrated with 81 halftones and line drawings
ISBN 0-7006-0226-7

With this study the cattle guard joins the sod house, the windmill, and barbed wire as a symbol of range country on the American Great Plains. A U.S. folk innovation now in use throughout the world, the cattle guard functions as both a gate and a fence: it keeps livestock from crossing, but allows automobiles and people to cross freely. The author blends traditional history and folklore to trace the origins of the cattle guard and to describe how, in true folk fashion, the device in its simplest form-wooden poles or logs spaced in parallel fashion over a pit in the roadway-was re-invented and adapted throughout livestock country.

Hoy traces the origins of the cattle guard to flat stone stiles unique to Cornwall, England, then through the railroad cattle guard, in use in this country as early as 1836, and finally to the Great Plains where, probably in 1905, the first ones appeared on roads. He describes regional variations in cattle guards and details unusual types. He provides information on cattle-guard makers, who range from local blacksmiths and welders to farmers and ranchers to large manufacturers.

In addition to documenting the economic and cultural significance of the cattle guard, this volume reveals much about early twentieth-century farm and ranch life. It will be of interest not only to folklorists and historians of agriculture and Western America, but also to many Plains-area farmers, ranchers, and oilmen.

James F. Hoy, department of English at Emporia State University, was raised on a stock ranch in the Kansas Flint Hills and has worked as a rodeo hand and cowboy. He is an authority on the early history of rodeo.

Extensive field research for this book took Hoy through seventeen states and to five foreign countries, where he photographed, measured, and recorded the description of hundreds of cattle guards. In the U.S. he researched patent records and interviewed oldtime cattlemen and oilmen who were around when the device was first being introduced into range country.

Jacket design by Julie Meyer.

Lawrence KS 66045


Back to Jim Hoy Bio

Back to ESU English Department

The URL for this page is http://www.emporia.edu/english/hoy/cattleg.htm
Please send your questions and comments to Jim Hoy, the web spinner for this site.
Last updated: 04/03/97