Many artists fancy themselves as book writers and the author of “Horn Stew,” Darol Dickinson, provided a 215-page book complete with 152 illustrations for those who have an interest in livestock production’s yesteryear.
The cover mainly features Texas Longhorn cattle but when you dive into the book you will find many stories about champion horses, too. Although I’m a fan of both, it might have been better to stick with one or the other; however, that is a minor criticism. I’ll give Dickinson credit as he strives to let the reader know it is the story of the owner behind the animal that is the essential theme.
Darol Dickinson is a well-known photographer and portrait painter of those star animals. “Horn Stew” deserves top marks for taking readers behind the scenes with those who actually owned the animals. A pleasing aspect is when he descriptively tells readers how owners could be agreeable and disagreeable. He did not sugarcoat their shortcomings when appropriate.
He wrote about how his dad, Frank, looked at Silky Fox, a famous champion horse, as a ticket to success. He lets the readers know that his dad never forgot the meal ticket as the care of the animal was put ahead of family needs. Many readers in the High Plains who have revered stock can relate to that.
Early in the book he talks about the contributions his late father made to him. The values passed down will strike a chord with today’s farm and ranch families.
The author provides a fascinating look at the exotic breeds and how deals were done. I appreciated his honesty about what happens when a check bounces.
Dickinson is well-schooled on the activities of how we go about business on the High Plains. Many deals are done by handshake with paperwork merely a formality. He was stung when those deals went south. Several refreshing stories reiterated it. Accounts of how years later when put in the same position, he trusted his instincts on whether to do a handshake only or have a formal written document.
One of the highlights was simply reading how Dickinson interacted in the free-market system and how it entails no government interaction, simply a buyer and seller trying to come to terms with what each of them wants. Sometimes the deal gets done without much extra wrangling, other times all either side can do is walk away and dream of another sale.
If you are fan of Texas Longhorn cattle, “Horn Stew” presents a good snapshot with the author acknowledging that the industry had many growing pains in his lifetime.
Late in the book Darol describes how the Dickinson family is involved with today’s operation and that should make the reader feel good.
“Horn Stew” is written with large type and easy-to-follow chapters that are fun to take in 15-minute reads or it can be read in its entirety in four evenings. People will identify with some of the names and places that Dickinson traveled to all around.
There is a wise saying that you cannot judge a book by its cover and “Horn Stew” fits this mold.
Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.