by Vic Reiman, Museum Technician, Montana’s Museum
We Pointed Them North significantly informs today’s understanding of 19th-century Western life. Author Larry McMurtry studied it as background for Lonesome Dove, his 1985 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The scene of naked cowboys swimming their horses across a river is taken directly from the memoir. Abbott is also quoted extensively in the PBS series, “The West.”
To grasp the book's singular impact on our culture, one has only to compare the sanitized Westerns of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s (for example, “Bonanza”) with a more recent portrayal, like “Lonesome Dove” or “Deadwood.” The profanity and sex in the latter works clearly show the influence of authentic cowpuncher “Teddy Blue.” Abbott was born in England 153 years ago next week. He died in Gilt Edge, Montana, in 1939.
The Research Center owns a first edition of We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a Cowpuncher, by E. C. Abbott and Helena Huntington Smith (New York, Toronto: Farrar, Rinehart, Inc.) 1939, as well as the paperback editions published by the University of Oklahoma Press (1976, 1982).