Andy Adams – The Journey from being a Cattle Rancher to Western Author

Andy was born on May 3rd 1859, to Andrew and Elizabeth Adams, who were some of the first settlers in Indiana. He grew up on the family farm and spent much of his childhood surrounded by cattle and horses. Andy was described as tall and very strong from an early age and, for unknown reasons, he left his family home at 15 to find his own way in life.

The Texas cattle industry was in its prime during this period, and Andy made his way to San Antonio, Texas. Here the animals were still being driven unrestricted along the open ranges. In 1883 he made his first run along the cattle trails from Texas to Kansas, where most of the cow towns were located. As a result of the farmers in the area, starting to make claims to the land, the ranchers were forced to begin fencing in their cattle and Adams made his last cattle drive in 1889.

By 1893, he had set out to Cripple Creek to join many others that decided to try and seek their fortune in gold mining. Even though his efforts were disappointing, he eventually settling down in Colorado Springs in 1894 and began to make a living doing a variety of odd jobs.

Being affronted with the misleading and unrealistic western publications at the time, Adams embarked on another career change at 43. His intention was to improve the genre by writing more truthful accounts of what life was like in the Old West. As a result of the honest nature of his novels Adams’ writing became very popular among readers, who appreciated the descriptions of what it was really like on the cattle trails.

Books by Andy Adams

His first and most successful novel, The Log of a Cowboy: A Narrative of the Old Trail Days, was published in 1903. Even though it is a fictional book, the story is based exclusively on his personal experiences. He gives readers a daily description of a cattle drive that he made from Texas to Montana. This authentic first-hand account has been described as ‘literature’s best account of life as a cowboy,’ and is still one of the most treasured publications in the western genre, by both pleasure readers and historians.

His fans thirst for true tales caused him to publish 4 more books in as many years. The first of these A Texas Matchmaker, was released in 1904. The story is more about life on an old ranch, than undying mystery and romance as the title misleadingly suggests.

In 1905, The Outlet was published and introduced a rarely explored side of cattle herding, the business side. There was corruption in business all over the country at the time, and this novel revealed many problems that stripped away the layers of glamour that were associated with life in the West. Through the views of the narrator, a young cowboy by the name of Tom Quirk, it shows that cattle ranching was just another means of survival in a dangerous land. The combined worth of the cattle driven in the novel is astounding and the difficulties that the cattle traders faced shocked many of the readers.

His book of short stories, Cattle Brands: A Collection of 14 Western Short Campfire Stories was released in 1906. Bandits, desperadoes, cattle and bloody shoot-outs were the highlight of these easy to read snippets which continued to mimic Andy’s life on the cattle trail.

In 1907 he published Reed Anthony, Cowman another book which follows the story of a Texas cowboy, who became a wealthy and influential cattleman.

The Wells Brothers: The Young Cattle Kings was published in 1911. The young twins in this story have lost their father, but inherited his land which at first seems to be unyielding and worthless. The novel follows their struggles and the honourable way they conduct themselves as they turn their inheritance from useless to success.

A sequel to his 1911 Wells Brothers, Adams published his final book in 1927 called The Ranch on the Beaver. The brothers are now relatively successful in their ventures and where many others are failing, in the cattle industry, the brothers find ways of expanding and enhancing their profits.

The End of the Trail

Choosing to be a loner, Andy Adams never got married or had any children. After his death on September 26th 1935 he was buried in Evergreen Cemetery of El Paso County. Despite being heirless Andy’s legacy lives on in his novels, and historians continue to use his work to gauge what life was really like for those living in the Old West. All his papers and unpublished manuscripts were donated to Colorado Springs Public Library and the State Historical Society of Colorado, and his first hand experiences continue to provide knowledge of an era that is in many ways still a mystery for us.