Historic Stockyards

J'Nell L. Pate
(TCU Press)
Ms. Pate may have even more to offer the average reader than this slim volume: she recently published a book on the first (and last) hundred years of the Fort Worth stockyards. The Fort Worth stockyards!

Still, if you have a beef, and are interested in steering, and the history of cows, and the history of cows in America, and whether they are transported to your table on foot, or in a train, or in a truck or in frozen locker, then Livestock Hotels is your meat. However, once you've made the first joke about the hotel's lousy room-service, you're pretty much done, though she does report,

    Although the thousands of involuntary visitors mooed, squealed, bleated, or whinnied their discomfort, displeasure and sheer frustration at being herded and crowded into strange noisy pens...

The whole thing is a bit of a hoot --- or a moo --- if you stop to think about it. No bull. Ms. Pate goes into great detail on the last years in the great cow hotels of Sioux Falls, Peoria, Lancaster, and Joplin. She also gives brief histories of Philip Danforth Armour, Edward F. Swift, and James B. Sherman, the usual robber-barons whose names are branded in our memories mostly because they consolidated the middle-west stockyards and sold us hot-dogs and bacon packaged with their monikers.

There are numerous pictures of the Livestock Exchange Building in Oklahoma City and the stockyards of Ogden, but after WWII, Pate tells us, the hotels went into decline as local auctions took business away from the big packing-houses and the neighbors finally, at last, started complaining about the nose-pollution.

On page 160, there's a table of the receipts of the leading cow and pig markets between 1904 and 1974, all of which reminds us that in the newest issue of Booklist, the editors have highlighted some of the weirdest reference books that have come out over the years, including Who's Who on the Postage Stamps of Ecuador [1953] and Women Serial and Mass Murderers: 1580 - 1990 [1992].

May we nominate America's Historic Stockyards [2005] even though it ignores the first line of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man ("Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down the road and this moocow that was coming down the road met a nicens little boy named baby cuckoo") and, most heinous of all, does not even mention our personal favorite stockyard song of all time, "The Cow-Cow Boogie," sung by Ella Mae Morse, a song that I used to sing to myself when I was a baby cuckoo. According to, the words go

    Now get along, get hip little doggies
    Get along, better be on your way
    Get along, get hip little doggies
    He trucked 'em on down that old fairway
    Singin' his cow cow boogie in the strangest way
    Comma ti yi yi yeah
    Comma ti yippity yi yeah.
Residents of a Livestock Hotel
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