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By Warren M. Elofson
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Extra info for Cowboys, Gentlemen, and Cattle Thieves: Ranching on the Western Frontier
The first homes were usually quickly built in makeshift fashion out of logs and furnished with packing cases for washstands and tables and homemade cupboards and chairs. fm Page 26 Thursday, August 3, 2000 7:06 PM 26 Cowboys, Gentlemen, and Cattle Thieves stately houses were erected on the wealthier operations, usually in a two-storey Victorian style with balconies and sometimes even stained glass. Their builders made use of the wood that flourished naturally in nearby forests rather than brick and mortar as would have been the case in Europe.
Thus when writing about the condition of the frontier, the historian is describing a period of transition when the crude and unsophisticated circumstances of a new society were being changed and participants inched their way towards something more complex and almost certainly more practical. It was many years, though, before the influence of the frontier was eradicated. Ranchers began building facilities for themselves and their livestock from the beginning, and they soon formed livestock associations – in part to work out all the rules of the industry and get them reinforced in law.
This approach has tended to be much more successful than large scale, year-round grazing in the foothills of Alberta. In accounting for the demise of the great ranches historians have been inclined to stress political factors. fm Page 18 Thursday, August 3, 2000 7:02 PM 18 Cowboys, Gentlemen, and Cattle Thieves numbers of people and thus towards settlement rather than huge leases. The ranges were then turned over to homesteaders, who crisscrossed them with fences and crowded out the big operations.