In the spring of 1990, while working
for the Howard Ranch in northeaster Nevada, I got bucked off breaking my back
and pelvis. A few weeks into my recovery, the doctor came into my room and told
me that there was a good chance that I might never ride again. The
Workman's Compensation Insurance people sent over a list of jobs that they felt
I could be retrained to handle. The list contained jobs with titles like "computer
programmer, fast food restaurant manager, refrigerator repairman, etc."
to say, this didn't do a whole lot to raise my spirits. At 48 years of age and
having never made a dollar in my life (excluding the 4 years spent in the Marine
Corps) that was not either directly or indirectly related to a cow or horse, I
saw my prospects for leading what I considered a "normal" life fading
By the time
I was released from the hospital and sent home I was deeply depressed. I was still
confined to my bed and had nothing to do all day but lie there feeling sorry for
myself. Even though I can't remember seriously contemplating suicide, I do remember
thinking that my family and the world in general would be a lot better off if
I was gone.
that same time, my wife had been doing a lot of writing for the Western Horseman
as well as a couple of women's magazines so she moved her computer into my bedroom
and suggested that I write down some of the stories that all cowboys have about
the wrecks they've had or heard about. She said it would make good reading for
our three boys when they got older. In truth, she was trying to help me to stop
feeling sorry for myself and to take my mind off my present condition.
no effort at all I came up with fifteen or twenty little incidents that I put
down on paper. Then one day after re-reading what I had written I said to myself,
"Hell, the kids aren't going to want to read this stuff!" So, I decided
to combine all of them into one story with just two main characters.
that took a lot more time than writing about the various bucking horse rides,
barroom fights and unusual wrecks. But, I was lucky. My good friend Russell McCoy
from the neighboring Owyhee Reservation was also working on the ranch. I would
write all day and at night Russell would read back to me what I had written. Then
we would discuss how it sounded, make changes and come up with ideas on where
I should go with it the next day. By the time I could walk again without help
I had finished the story that I called "The Slick Fork Saddle."
of it were typed on a computer, some of it was written in long hand and other
parts were written using a standard typewriter. There were hundreds of misspelled
words, lots of grammatical and punctuation errors and there were food stains on
many of the pages. But it was done and ready to be put away for my boys to read
when they got older and wanted to know what it was like to have been a drifting
cowboy when there ol' daddy was young.
feel that at this point I also have to add a little something in here about religion
and my own personal spiritual beliefs. I have never met a buckaroo or cowboy that
did not believe in some form of a Supreme Being. It's just to difficult to live
your life outside seeing so many miracles of nature and the way the whole universe
is organized to ignore it or believe that it could have simply happened by chance.
Granted, some of our ideas are a little twisted and don't necessarily follow the
traditional views of organized religion but I believe that nearly all cowboys
feel that there is some outside force that has control over their lives.
before my wreck I use to joke with people when they would ask me what I believed
for a religion. I would say, "I'm not real sure, I got a father that goes
around talking to trees and rocks and thanking deer for feeding his family after
he shoots them. I got a Catholic mother that prays to plastic statues and I got
a wife that believes there's a phone line between Heaven and Salt Lake City, Utah"
one night I hobbled down to the corral to see my horses. There wasn't much of
a moon and there were thousands of stars in the sky when I looked up. I'm not
sure what prompted me at that particular moment but as I stood there staring at
the sky I said out loud, "I'll make a deal with You, God. Fix it so I can
ride again and I promise You, I'll never complain about it being too cold or too
hot and I'll never take a job that keeps me from being horseback."
not sure if that prayer had anything to do with it or if it was just a coincidence
but in any event from the next day on I seemed to get better and better. A week
later I was able to sneak a ride on one of my kids' horses and within a month
I was riding full time. The doctors couldn't believe it and frankly neither can
So much for the
sermon, now let's get back to "Last Buckaroo."
next spring the famous western sculptor Jeff Wolf came out to the ranch for a
week to ride with us and take pictures to use with his artwork. One night after
supper, he asked my wife if she had anything to read. She gave him the original
copy of "The Slick Fork Saddle" and he headed back to the bunkhouse.
to that time Russell McCoy and my family were the only ones that had read the
The next morning
Jeff came to the breakfast table all red eyed and sleepy. He said he had been
up all night reading the rough draft. Then he said, "I'll make a deal with
you. Let me take this home and get some one to clean it up and correct the spelling
and grammar in it. Then I'll give a copy to anyone that buys any of my art that
cost them more than $5,000."
said that he was welcome to take it but asked what I got out of this "deal".
Jeff said, "You get your work proof read and copied over in a nice neat format.
You'll also get it into the hands of people with money. You never can tell where
it will go from there." I couldn't
see where that was any great bargain for me but I couldn't see where it would
hurt anything either so I agreed.
the next year or so a few people that Jeff had sold his work to called wanting
copies of the book. Of course I couldn't give them any but it got me to thinking
that maybe there might be a market for the book if it could be played on a cassette.
Keep in mind that CDs weren't invented at that time.
year or so earlier, before he moved to Colorado, Baxter Black had been the vet
for the J. R. Simplot Company and one of their ranches bordered us. I had met
Baxter once or twice when he was out preg testing and working the Simplot Cattle.
I got his address from a mutual friend and sent him a copy asking if he would
be interested in narrating it and putting the book on tape.
week or so later I got a call from "Doc. Black." He said that he was
too busy to do any recording but that he liked it and suggested that I make an
attempt to get it published. As near as I remember it, he then said, "Do
you know what you've done?" Before I could answer he went on to say, "You've
captured in print a history of the cowboy way of life that is fast fading. I don't
think there's another contemporary western novel out there like this one. I'm
going to send it back to you along with a letter of introduction to Gibbs Smith
Publishing in Utah."
couple of more years went by and the Howard Ranch sold to the Rocky Mountain Elk
Foundation. All of us that were working there lost our jobs and were forced to
look for work elsewhere. Needless to say the purchase of the ranch and the subsequent
loss of my job in addition to the fact that I was forced to sell the little bunch
of cattle that my family and I were in the process of putting together, left a
pretty bitter taste in my mouth as far as the environmental movement was concerned.
fate is a strange bed partner. I ended up going to work for the Deseret Land and
Livestock Company near Woodruff, Utah. One day while driving down the freeway
on our way to go shopping in Salt Lake City, I noticed a freeway exit sign that
read "Layton ½ mile"
asked my wife it that wasn't the name of the town where Baxter had said that Gibbs
Smith Publishing was located. She said she believed it was so we pulled off the
freeway and found a phone booth with a directory in it. We looked it up and sure
enough we were only a few miles from their office.
luck would have it, (and it was darn sure luck) we just happen to have her brief
case in the trunk. And, believe it or not, a copy of the cleaned up manuscript
as well as Baxter Black's letter were in the little case!
looked like too much of a coincidence to not follow up on so we drove to the address
that we had found in the phone book. When we got there a pretty, well dressed,
receptionist met us at the door. She was extremely polite and cordial when she
asked if she could help us.
soon as I told her I had written a book and wanted to see someone about getting
it published her whole demeanor changed and you could almost hear her say, "Yea,
you and 200 others today." Although, in all honesty that is not what she
said. She politely directed me down
the hall to an office where I met Gale Yngve, the lady that became a close friend
and my editor.
asked a few questions about the book and then asked if anyone of any importance
had read it. I said, "You Bet!"
then asked "Who?" to which I quickly answered "Kent Howard."
She wanted to know who Kent Howard was. I told her that he was the President of
the Nevada Cattlemen's Association and The 1990 Nevada Cattleman of The Year.
I could tell she wasn't impressed so I told her that Raymond Yowell had also read
it and liked it.
look on her face almost screamed "Who the Hell is Raymond Yowell?" so
before she could voice the question, I explained that Raymond was the head of
the Western Shoshone Sacred Land Council.
that point she put both hands on the edge of her desk and very sweetly and quietly
asked, "Has any one with any literary credentials read your book?" At
that point, I laid the letter from Baxter down on the same desk that her fingers
were now digging groves into as they turned white.
they say, "It's not what you know. It's who you know." Everyone in the
place threw their prayer cloths down on the floor, faced Colorado and started
bowing and paying homage to "Baxter, The God of Western Heritage."
weeks later I had a contract, three months later the book came out in print. By
fall it had won the National Cowboy Symposium's Tom Blasengame Award for Literature,
The Society of Mormon Letters Best Fiction of The Year, was nominated and was
first runner up for the Association of Western Artist and Entertainer's Will Rogers
Award for Literature and the National Cowboy Hall of Fame's Medicine Feather Award
for first time authors. Allan Sacks Production in Hollywood acquired the movie
rights and my family and I were driven or flown to receptions from Wyoming to
Texas. I was on television a half a dozen times, interviewed by more news papers
than I can remember and asked to endorse three or four other western books. Movie
and television actor Wilfred Brimley stopped by the house and picked up a copy
of the book and actor Lee Horsley called to tell me how much he had enjoyed reading
it. A year or so later after Allan Sacks Productions had lost their option on
the movie rights Luke Perry and Thomas Carter Productions picked them up. However,
the greatest reward of all was that I got to meet hundreds of wonderful people
and made friends that are still close to me even now.
was a real Ego Trip for a poor dumb Nevada buckaroo that no one had even known
was alive a year earlier!
around the year of 2000 Gibbs Smith Publishing decided to stop printing the book
and I got the publishing rights back. As soon as it went out of print the existing
books began to appear on the Internet for sale. At first the prices were fairly
reasonable $35-$40 for hard backs and $20 to $30 for paper backs. Then something
happened that I still don't completely understand. The book developed a sort of
"cult" type following and the prices began to rise. First edition, hardback
copies in mint condition sold for over $600. Even today books in poor to average
condition sell for over $100 a copy with paperbacks selling regularly for $45-$85.
few years ago Mr. Robert Sigman, the past President of Republic Films called to
say that he had been given a copy of the book by a friend and wanted to know if
the publishing rights were available. I told him that I had gotten them back,
but had no idea what to do now that I had them.
was the beginning of a great friendship. Bob has been working with me ever since
that first call. He has worked tirelessly to get the book back into print, encouraged
me to begin a sequel and is using his many connections to get the book made into
As I said
earlier, the greatest reward I've gotten from writing Last Buckaroo has been the
many kind and generous people that I've met and Bob Sigman ranks right up there
at the top of the list.
of the other fantastic people that the book helped me to become acquainted with
was the late Joelle Smith. A mutual friend gave Joelle a copy of the book several
years ago and she fell in love with it. In 1999 she called to tell me how much
she enjoyed it and made a trip to Utah spending three or four days riding and
branding with us. Later one of her more popular paintings, I believe it's called
"Waitin' in The Shade" came out. It's a painting of my youngest son
Sam, waiting in the shade of his horse for his turn to rope at the branding.
Bob called to say that he had negotiated with Joelle's mother to use some of her
art work in the new addition of the book I was speechless. It was a dream that
Joelle and I had discussed several times over the years. My greatest regret is
that she is no longer with us to see our dream as a reality.
Joelle passed away the world lost one of the truly great western artists but for
those of us who knew her, we lost a true friend and a wonderful, generous person.
closing I want to say that I hope that those of you that are reading Last Buckaroo
for the first time enjoy it as much as those of us who lived it enjoyed making
the memories that it captures.
and Happy Trails,
Coyote Creek Ranch
"A Story that Needed Retelling" - Sigman Version
me, Waylon Jennings said it best. "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys."
as long as I can remember I have had a fascination with and deep admiration for
those who have lived the true cowboy life and for the impossible-to-fake commitment
they have to their fast-fading craft.
When it comes to the
real deal cowboys, I think the old adage rings true
it takes one to know
one. That is why I was excited when, in 1999, my good friend "Cowboy"
Larry Maurice contacted me to tell me about Mac Hedges and Last Buckaroo. The
book and the man behind it, he said, represented a true testimonial to the Cowboy
Ideal. He was sure I would love it.
The only problem was that
the book had already been out of print for four years, and it took me a while
to find a copy. Once I did, it only took me a few pages to realize that Larry
was absolutely right. I loved it! I loved it so much, in fact, that as soon as
I finished, I contacted Mac Hedges to tell him so.
call was the beginning of a correspondence that led to our 2003 meeting. Since
that time I have spent a lot of time talking with Mac and his wife Candi. And,
I should say, listening to him as well. Mac is a truly great storyteller, and
I found myself often hanging on his every word, just as I think you will do with
Mac and his family live in Winnemucca, Nevada. No
one has ever told Mac about retirement, and at sixty plus years he is still ridin'
and ropin' as a buckaroo for the Coyote Creek Ranch. He works l o n g days doing
what he loves, surrounded by a wonderful family great friends and loyal stock
amid the mountains, plains and valleys that fit him like his most comfortable
Last Buckaroo, by Mackey Hedges was published in 1995
by Gibbs Smith, an independent publisher of many Western novels, art and educational
textbooks. The option to reprint was not exercised and the rights reverted to
Mac in 1997.
So why reprint the book now? That's simple. My
life has been enriched by this story and by the man who crafted it, and I want
others to have that same experience. This is a labor of love meant to honor a
quintessentially American way of life and a man who truly embodies the cowboy
And speaking of honoring
we have changed the book's
cover to become a tribute to one of America's greatest Western artists and sweethearts,
Joelle Smith. A few years back, Joelle left this world far too early, at the age
of 47. She was a big fan of Mac and of his book and had offered the use of her
gorgeous piece Riata Man as cover art in the event the book was ever reprinted.
We decided to take her up on her offer and share her legacy with all those who
come in contact with this book. When I contacted Joelle's mother to tell her we'd
like to do this, she was touched, and mentioned that we might be interested in
an additional collection of prints for use throughout the chapters.
are delighted to be able to share those with you as well and to provide you with
a further window into her extraordinary talent and passion for Western life. I
hope you enjoy Last Buckaroo. At the end, you'll find a few pages of Mac's next
book, "Shadow of the Wind," which we hope to have in print by early
We invite you to visit our website, www.lastbuckaroo.com
and share your comments and reviews. City Slickers and Western Dudes - all invited!
Thanks for your interest in this extraordinary project and
in the ways of the West. It's always great to have good friends riding shotgun.
Bob Sigman has a solid management
track record in the Corporate World with high profile and diverse companies as
Bristol Myers, Worldvision Home Video, Republic Pictures, AsSeenIn.com and the
America One TV Network. He served his corporate tenure between New York and Los
Angeles, but now calls, Charlottesville, Virginia "home." As a consultant,
Bob assists corporations and individuals to develop their strategic plans towards
helping them realize their sales and marketing objectives.
and CEO of Republic Pictures, Bob's position brought him back in touch with many
of his childhood heroes, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and many of the "Cowboy"
legendary actors and actresses that graced the silver screen of Republic films.
Through his "extended" Western Family, Bob met Mackey Hedges and has
become a dedicated fan for Last Buckaroo. He, Mac and Mac's wife , Candi, our
pleased to be able to bring you this new version of what some have called, a great
testimonial" to the Cowboys Life.