I had begun to see those beards long before they were gray; when no wire fence mutilated the freedom of the range; when fourteen mess-wagons would be at the spring round-up; when cattle wandered and pastured, dotting the endless wilderness; when roping brought the college graduate and the boy who had never learned to read into a lusty equality of youth and skill; when songs rose by the camp-fire; and the dim form of the night herder leaned on his saddle horn as under the stars he circled slowly around the recumbent thousands; when two hundred miles stretched between all this and the whistle of the nearest locomotive.
Oh, Friends, this is one lovely elegy to the West that Was as Owen Wister knew it. It is chockful of descriptive power, but it is also soaked in a sadness, a mournful lament for what was and what may never be again.
Wister gave us this tale towards the end of his life and one gets the feeling it is not a mere story, nor rose-colored nostalgia but a sad-eyed goodbye to what the man saw as a better time.
Superlative craft here.