With winters that killed entire herds of cattle, bitter drought, and countless other hardships, it’s a wonder that the West was ever settled. The Weak Ones Turned Back, The Cowards Never Started: A Century of Ranching in Montana, published by the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA), tells the stories of 142 present-day, working ranch families in Montana that not only survived, but thrived. Each family has remained on their original homesteadeds for more than 100 years.

Their stories are as poignant as they are raw: a woman and five children drown by a flash flood; a father of eight is shot and killed while rounding up cattle, leaving his pregnant wife to fend on her own.

“The stories of the ranches included in this book are a tribute to the perseverance and tradition of ranching in Montana,” says Tom Hougen, MSGA president. The book commemorates the organization’s 125th anniversary.

Whether you think the ranching lifestyle is an addiction or an affliction, one thing is clear after reading this book. These pioneering families are cut from a different cloth. Perhaps U.S. President and Montana Stockgrower Association member Theodore Roosevelt said it best: “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

Edited by Linda Grosskopf and Nancy Morrison (Word Wright Publishing, L.P.,

2009, $50), www.mtbeef.org

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