© Author Adventures

Will James, a Cowboy Writer and Artist

Most of the books by Will James (1892-1942) were written for young people in the 1920s and 1930s, and several were autobiographical, depicting a bygone era in the history of the US West. Times have indeed changed. Today’s Elko has a population of around four times as many as in the day of the writer.

James won the Newbery Medal in 1927 for Smoky the Cow Horse (originally Smoky), published by Charles Scribner’s Sons. Other books he published include Lonesome Cowboy, Cowboy in the Making Cow Country, and All in the Day’s Riding.

To this day, early editions of Smoky that are in very good condition can be extremely valuable. We found one priced at $6,500.00 through a web-based auction house.

The Place

The midsize town of Elko is situated 5,000 feet up in the northern-most region of the state. Its Northeastern Nevada Museum (museumelko.org), at 1515 Idaho Street, features the work of the cowboy writer and artist in its Red and Mary Ellis Gallery.

The Museum is in the heart of town and faces the Humboldt River. According to its website, its mission statement is: “The Northeastern Nevada Museum is the premier cultural and historical center for preservation, research, and education in northeastern Nevada. The museum will maintain a quality facility dedicated to serving the area and its visitors by providing comprehensive archives and collections, diverse history and art exhibits, research facilities, and a community gathering space.”

Quoting Will James

“For that pony had got tangled up in the cowboy’s heartstrings a heap more than that cowboy wanted to let on, even to himself. He couldn’t get away from how he missed him.”

“For they really belong, not to man, but to that country of junipers and sage, of deep arroyos, mesas–and freedom.”

This is the last stop on our Nevada Author Adventures Trail, unless you are attending an event at the Black Mountain Institute down in Las Vegas.

Patricia Smart