In stores May 15, 2018. Pre-order now.
A Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter’s gripping portrait of one Western family struggling to hold on to age-old American ways.
New York Times reporter and best-selling author John Branch takes readers to the magnificent red soil and rocky arroyos of southern Utah, where the Wright family of Smith Mesa have for generations raised cattle and world-champion saddle-bronc riders—some call them the most successful rodeo family in history.
Filled with vivid scenes of cattle ranching and the high drama of rodeo, The Last Cowboys follows three generations of Wrights through the seasons as they are battered by drought, the falling price of beef, battles over land-use and federal regulation, and rodeo’s ever-present risks of serious injury. This is an epic but intimate story of real-life cowboys squeezed by social change in the twenty-first century, their soiled boots planted firmly in the past while they optimistically build a future.
"John Branch covers sports the way Lyle Lovett writes country music—a fresh turn on a time-honored pleasure. The Last Cowboys is a wonderful ballad of intrepid Old West men bucking a modern world that’s going dry fast."
“The Last Cowboys is a beautiful book, threading deep reporting into a gorgeously written narrative. It is American portraiture at its best.”
Praise for The Last Cowboys
An excerpt from The Last Cowboys…
Saddle-bronc riding is the classic rodeo event, the one depicted in the cowboy silhouette of the Wyoming license plate. It takes balance and rhythm, brains and guts. The cowboy has to stay on the horse for eight seconds to receive a score, and cowboys that ride smoothly usually get rewarded with the best scores. But even staying on doesn’t guarantee earning any money, and the ones left broken in the dirt get nothing.
No family in the world does saddle-bronc as well as the Wrights of Utah. Four of them have been crowned world champion, and there are more Wrights on the way. But rodeo is a young man’s gamble, even for the first family of saddle bronc, and only a few make a working living at it. Every buck of the horse can be the last.
The Wrights know this better than anyone.
YETI Presents: The Wright Boys
JOHN BRANCH is a reporter for the New York Times. His feature article about an avalanche in Washington state, “Snow Fall,” won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize; he has three times been featured in Best American Sports Writing; and his first book, Boy on Ice, won the PEN/ESPN Prize for Literary Sportswiting. Most recently, Branch wrote the feature-length New York Times story about recovering bodies from Everest, called, "Deliverance From 27,000 Feet." He lives near San Francisco.
Photo by Catherine Branch