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Making a Hand:   Growing up Cowboy in New Mexico
Photographs by Gene Peach. Text by Max Evans.
Illustrated. 160 pp.
Museum of New Mexico Press. US$39.95
ISBN: 0890134766

Cowboys and the American West continue to hold an almost mystical, mythical grip on the American imagination. Part of this firm grasp comes from the belief that the life represented by cowboys and the frontier is a thing of the past, accessible to us now only through westerns and reading old history books.

With Making a Hand: Growing up Cowboy in New Mexico, Gene Peach and Max Evans give us pertinent, tangible proof that this life persists today. New Mexico has many thriving, working ranches. Gene Peach's photographs in Making a Hand are of boys and girls from 50 New Mexico ranching families as they go about the daily chores of the ranch. These tasks include working cattle from horseback, caring for the livestock, and riding and competing in rodeos. The work done by these cowboys and cowgirls in the making is a far cry from the activities of their urban and suburban counterparts. At the same time, it is much more real than the activities of entertainment cowboys that Americans have become familiar with through rodeos and tourism ranches. The children on the working ranches of New Mexico grow up in a world where honor and success come through hard, often unrewarding work and demonstrated skill with animals.

The photographs in this book are poignant and have none of the empty sentimentality one often finds in other portrayals of this culture. There is no hint of "big Hollywood" here. The works are subtle, beautifully lit and capture moments of ranching life. The text contributed by Western authors Max Evans and Elmer Kelton captures their recollections of that life as they were growing up. The spirit of the cowboy world is contained in this book with moving images and text.

Gene Peach’s photographs have been published in more than fifty countries and in numerous publications and books. An exhibition of his ranch and rodeo children organized by the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum is currently on tour in the U.S.

Max Evans is the bestselling author of The Hi-Lo Country, The Rounders, Bluefeather Fellini, and many other novels, short-story collections, and books of essays.

Elmer Kelton was named the “All Time Best Western Author” by Western Writers of America.

With Making a Hand: Growing up Cowboy in New Mexico, which is a fine work published by the Museum of New Mexico Press, readers can receive a richer, deeper understanding of this key element of our culture.

Sylvia Breau , for Notable Book Reviews
Notable Book Reviews received one or more copies of this book in exchange for this review.
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