“One thing is certain,” a reviewer in True West Magazine recently said, “as long as there are writers as skillful as Elmer Kelton, Western literature will never die.”
Few would disagree with the assessment of the man whose peers voted the “Best Western writer of all time” and whose 50 novels form a testament and tribute to the American West.
But who is that Texas gentleman with the white Stetson and rimless eyeglasses whose friendly face appears on so many book jackets?
Sandhills Boy is Kelton’s memoir, a funny and poignant story of “a freckle-faced country boy, green as a gourd, a sheep ready to be sheared,” growing up in the wild, dry, sandhills of West Texas. The son of a working cowboy and ranch foreman, Elmer was expected to follow in his father's footsteps but learned at an early age that he had no talents in the cowboy’s trade. Buck Kelton called Elmer “Pop,” said he was “slow as the seven-year itch,” and reluctantly supported his son’s decision to become a student at the University of Texas, and, eventually, a journalist and writer.
Kelton’s life in ranch and oil patch Texas during the Great Depression is told with warm nostalgic humor animated with stories of the cowboys and their wives and kids who gave the time and place its special flavor. He writes with great feeling of his service in WW2 in France, Germany, and Czechoslovakia, and the romantic circumstances in which his life changed in the village of Ebensee, Austria.