This contemporary "log of a cowboy," to borrow a term from Andy Adams, reveals the daily life of a cowboy during the years 1979-81.
Readers of Erickson's Hank the Cowdog books will recognize names, locations and incidents which the author used for that series: Tuerto, Drover, Casey the Bronc, the machine shed, the calf shed, the sick pen, and the gas tanks. High Loper, Sally May, and Slim were originally patterned after Tom Ellzey, Janet Ellzey, and Erickson himself.
"I came up one steer short, 158 instead of 159. I rode through them again and got another count, the same: 158. So I went back to the junkyard. This time, I walked it afoot, checking out every hiding place. I drove the steers out into the open. Still one short. Then I happened to look around and saw a steer peeking out over the steering wheel of one of the wrecked cars. He was inside the car and appeared ready to drive off."
Cowboying on the LZ Ranch in the Texas Panhandle did have its lighter moments. In fact, humor was sometimes all that kept John Erickson and the Ellzey family going as they struggled through a depressed cattle market, drought, sickness, injuries, and the West Texas weather:
"The temperature at noon was down to five degrees and the chill factor was minus thirty-seven. That is killing cold. It wasn't a fit day to be out, so naturally we went out to feed cattle. I wore my wool long johns, with six layers of clothes above the waist and three below. My outer shell was my big cowhide coat. We drove through the steers on wheat pasture in the morning. There really wasn't much we could do but Lawrence can't stand to sit around in a nice warm house while his cattle are out there suffering. If we couldn't make them comfortable, at least we could suffer with them."