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About Jim Hoy
Some Poems
Books and More 
Contacting Jim Hoy


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About Jim Hoy 

James F. (Jim) Hoy is director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas. Reared on a stock ranch near Cassoday, he has lived in the Flint Hills area all his life, except for graduate school in Missouri and a teaching stint in Idaho.

Information from 2001:

Hoy holds a B.S. degree (1961) from Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS; an M.A. (1965) from Emporia State University; and a Ph.D. (1970) from the University of Missouri-Columbia. After a couple of years of itinerancy following undergraduate school, he taught two years at El Dorado (Kansas) Junior High (1963-65) before moving into college teaching. He served as Chair of English at ESU for ten years, returning happily to the ranks of full-time teaching and research in 1990.

Hoy's academic interests include medieval English literature, Western American literature, Australian Outback folklife and literature, and Great Plains folklore. He has published over a hundred articles, both scholarly and journalistic, and is the author or co-author of nine books, including COWBOYS AND KANSAS: STORIES FROM THE TALLGRASS PRAIRIE, published by the University of Oklahoma Press.

His chief interest is the folklife of ranching, both historical and contemporary, in various parts of the world, with special emphasis on the Great Plains and particularly the Flint Hills of Kansas. He explores this interest in frequent lectures and programs for school, community, and professional groups throughout the region. Since 1983 he has written (with Tom Isern) a weekly newspaper column, PLAINS FOLK. In 1996 he was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Hoy's research has taken him onto the backroads of the American West, the tracks of the Australian bush, and the lanes of the English countryside, seeking, among other things, to discover cattle guards, hay barracks, folk songs, and old-timers willing to talk about the way things were.

As a folklorist and a native plainsman, Hoy is committed to documenting and celebrating the lives of his fellow plains folk, seeking out the extraordinary in the ordinary while encouraging pride of region in those fortunate few who dwell in the Great Plains and understanding of region in those who must live elsewhere.

Jim Hoy wrote the following about the plainss: 

Plains folk take space and openness for granted.  It seems that most of the things we think of as typical of the plains—barbed-wire fences, windmills, wheat fields, grass—are things we can see through.  In fact, if we can't see through something (whether a physical object of somebody's scheme), we get nervous.  Most people from outside the plains, if they seek privacy when they are out-of-doors, will look for a tree or a big rock to hide behind.  Most plainsmen, on the other hand, will look for the barest, highest spot they can find.  That way they can see whether or not anyone is sneaking up on them.

Coronado, we are told, was never more frightened than when he looked through the legs of a bison and could see nothing but horizon.  The plains must have looked as endless to him as Interstate 70 does to a westbound easterner -- four lanes into eternity.  Buffalo Bill Cody, on the other hand, thought the plains anything but monotonous.  He never got lost, he said, because the plains were so beautiful that every landscape he ever saw was forever emblazoned into his memory.

Mountains and trees have their attractions,  but to a true plainsmen, nothing is prettier, or more reassuring, than a big sky and some wide-open spaces.

by Jim Hoy, reprinted with permission. From Plains Folk, A Commonplace of the Great Plains, by Jim Hoy and Tom Isern, University of Oklahoma Press, 1987

Some Poems

In the Days of Granville and John
Good Help


In the Days of Granville and John

Oh the days of Granville and John have passed
Never to come again,
And we won't see the likes of times like theirs
In the current affairs of men.

Now Granville and John were bachelor brothers
Who lived high up Middle Creek,
Where the grass grows tall and the steers get fat
And the streams run clear and deep.

Their daddy had helped to fence the Flint Hills
At the end of the open range
When cattle that once trod the Old Chisholm Trail
Now arrived on the Santa Fe trains.

Shipped up from Texas or New Mexico
Or the swamps of Louisianne.
Lean, five year old steers as tall as a horse,
But no wider than your hand.

Tail up the sick ones out of the cars,
Get them out in the pastures and sun,
By the Fourth of July they'd be fat as a pup
On the grass of the Hundred and One.

John rode the pastures and looked out for strays
While Granville hauled salt and kept house
And cooked in a skillet of cold bacon grease
All filled with the tracks of a mouse.

"Nothing at all to worry about,"
He'd say in a slow kind of way.
"Just turn on the fire and let her get warm
And those tracks will soon go away."

No, fine dining was not what you'd get at their house
And to them their work was their fun
With no call to spend much of the hundred a month
They were paid by the Hundred and One.

For what better life than a cowboy's life,
Plain, without any frills?
And what better life for a single man 
Than a horse and a song in the Hills?

Squeeze chutes were unknown to Granville and John;
They worked with a horse and a rope.
It was a pleasure to see them drag calves to the fire,
Or ride along home at a lope.

Shipping time was when Granville and John
Were at their peak and their prime.
They could round up a pasture of the spookiest steers
And never leave one behind.

They could ride across pastures on the darkest of nights
And always come out at the gate,
And if you helped ship, I'll tell you for sure,
You sure didn't get to sleep late.

On shipping mornings they'd gather a crew
And start for the pasture at three,
Then sit on their horses and hour, or two,
'Til there was enough light to see.

Now why they didn't just wait at the barn
Or stay a bit longer in bed
Is a question you might as well not even ask;
They'd be jogging too far ahead.

They'd round up the cattle on top of a hill
And cut out five loads of the best,
Then head 'em for Hymer with John in the lead
While Granville counted the rest.

Their horses weren't fancy; their saddles were plain,
But they always got the job done,
And owner or buyer, you got a fair count
In the days of Granville and John.

Now the trains no longer haul cattle to grass
And the stockyards have all been torn down,
Replaced by goosenecks and portable pens
That would have made Granville frown.

For how can you train a horse to watch cows
If he rides in a trailer all day?
And how can you have any worth to your life
If you use a machine to load hay?

If your work is your life, then what better life
Than to ride the Flint Hills in the dawn?
And what better time to have lived in the Hills
Than the days of Granville and John.

But the days of Granville and John have passed
Never to come again,
And seldom today will anyone see
The likes of these good men.

© Jim Hoy
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Good Help

Sorry help, without a doubt,
Is the working cowboy's curse,
And every year at shipping time
It seems to just get worse.

Now just last week we finished shipping
Steers off summer grass,
But if I'm asked to help next year
I might just have to pass.

It's not that I don't like to ship
If you've got some decent hands,
But the sorry help they've got these days
Is more than I can stand.

I know good help is hard to get,
And getting scarcer every day,
But why the boss puts up with these,
Well, it's not for me to say.

His nephew's got a reining horse
That's damn good, I'll allow,
At running, turning, sliding stops-
But he sure can't see a cow.

You get inside the loading pen
To draft cattle on the scales,
He'll cut in front and spin around
And scatter steers like quail.

His cousin's girlfriend has a friend
That has a barrel horse
She managed to hand onto
When she went through her divorce.

That horse sure needs some exercise;
He might be good on cows
If only she could hold him in
And slow him down somehow.

Then there's his whooping, hollering brother-in-law
With all his fancy gear.
Lord, I wish I had a dollar
For every time he spooked a steer.

You know, I wouldn't mind it half so much
If they knew how bad they were,
But they all think that they're the best
That ever buckled on a spur.

Why, they'll leave cattle in the pasture
Ride between you and the herd.
Be too far back to do much good,
Or ride too close and keep them stirred.

They don't know how to watch a cow
To see if she will break,
Or how to push, but not too hard,
When you're going through a gate.

Oh, they're mounted well enough,
Their horses have the speed,
And they'll run and stop and spin around,
But it's cow sense that they need.

But there's not much hope of getting that
When the rider doesn't know
Which end of a steer to holler at
Or punch to make him go.

Good riders who think they're cowboys
Are a dozen to a dime,
But gathering steers with help like that
Is a waste of horses-and my time.

So a word of advice to all the would-be hands
Who all think that they know how:
You know, you've got that horse part down real good-
But you sure don't know the cow.

© Jim Hoy
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Books and More



Cowboy's Lament; a Life on the Open Range, an impressive product of serendipity and scholarship, offers a compelling view of the life of F.H. Maynard (1853-1926), author of an early version of the song most commonly as "The Cowboy's Lament." Through Maynard family contacts, Jim Hoy, director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at Emporia State University, uncovered Maynard's memoir of his colorful life. From the publisher's description:

In 1870, sixteen-year-old Frank Maynard left his home in Iowa and arrived in Towanda, Kansas, where he soon took a job helping to trail a small herd of cattle from Missouri to Colorado. Thus began his adventures as an open-range cowboy, a ten-year career that coincided with the peak of the great trail-drive era.

Among the highlights of Maynard’s time on the range were brushes with outlaws and encounters with famous lawmen, such as Bill Tilghman and Bat and Ed Masterson (he was in Dodge City when Ed was shot). On one drive Maynard was set upon and chased by irate German homesteaders; on another he narrowly escaped being killed by a man known as Slusher while driving horses from Kansas to Texas.

But Maynard’s most enduring contribution sprang from overhearing a version of an old Irish ballad in 1876 and reworking it as “The Cowboy’s Lament,” the standard most recognize today as “The Streets of Laredo.” His role in adapting the song and his other colorful experiences on the trail have come to light with the recent discovery of his unpublished memoir. Now, alongside the frontier recollections of Charlie Siringo and Charles Colchord, Maynard’s personal account offers a rare and revealing glimpse of the true Old West.

Hoy's introduction and extensive biography of Maynard reveal the story of his research and illuminate the era in which Maynard lived and worked. The book includes Maynard's lively memoir; the complete contents of his extremely rare 1911 book of poetry, Rhymes of the Range and Trail; other poems; examples of Maynard's journalism;  some of Maynard's correspondence, including a letter from Jack London with publishing advice; a glossary; a bibliography; and a generous collection of photographs and illustrations.

The book's foreword is by David Stanley, professor emeritus of English, Westminster College, and co-editor of the outstanding
Cowboy Poets and Cowboy Poetry. He sets Maynard's writing in its historical and journalistic context:

By the time Maynard began writing, the terrible winter of 1886-87, "the Great Die-Up," had made it clear that cattle could no longer be wintered on the northern ranges of the West without supplemental feed. Furthermore, the expansion of homesteads, the advent of barbed wire, and the fencing of water sources had pronounced the end of the open range, and the expansion of railroads throughout the West had made cattle drives largely unnecessary [....]The nostalgia for a place and way of life widely viewed as passing, disappearing, or already gone led to biographies, autobiographies, and reminiscent essays....

The book is handsomely designed, published by Texas Tech University Press, from the Voice in the American Series, Andy Wilkinson, series editor. Read more at the Texas Tech University Press site.

See our feature here, which includes biographical information and poetry about Maynard, including "The Cowboy's Lament" (
"The Dying Cowboy") contributed some years ago by Jim Hoy as he was working on his manuscript. The feature also includes information about Rhymes of the Range and Trail and a cover image of the rare book, shared by historian Mark Gardner, from his personal collection.


  In Jim Hoy's Flint Hills Cowboys: Tales of the Tallgrass Prairie, he writes, "The Flint Hills are my home country, the land that nurtured my life and nourished my soul. My roots here are as deep as those of bluestem grass in black-soil bottomland.... I was reared among cattle and horses, ranchers and cowboys, pasture work and rodeos, and that is the Hills that I know and these are the stories I've heard."

The book is reviewed in the January, 2007 issue of Western Horseman by managing editor Fran D. Smith, who lauds the content of the book as well as its style, which she describes as, "...akin to sitting at a nearby restaurant and listening to the locals introduce an out-of-town guest to their community in the most amusing, appealing way possible."  (Read more about what's in the January issue of Western Horseman here.) You can read more about the book at the The University of Kansas Press web site.

Flint Hills Cowboys: Tales of the Tallgrass Prairie is available directly from Jim Hoy ($32.50 postpaid, autograph and inscription requests are welcome, jhoy@emporia.edu, 620 343 3192, 938 Road 130, Emporia, KS 66801"); from The University of Kansas Press; Amazon; and other booksellers.

  Vaqueros, Cowboys, and Buckaroos, coauthored with Lawrence Clayton and Jerald Underwood, is published by the University of Texas You can read an excerpt, a detailed description of the book, and see the table of contents, and order the book at the University of Texas site here.  Here's a bit of the description from Amazon.com:

... In this book, three long-time students of the American West describe the history, working practices, and folk culture of vaqueros, cowboys, and buckaroos. They draw on historical records, contemporary interviews, and numerous photographs to show what makes each group of mounted herders distinctive in terms of working methods, gear, dress, customs, and speech. They also highlight the many common traits of all three groups.

This comparative look at vaqueros, cowboys, and buckaroos brings the mythical image of the American cowboy into focus and detail and honors the regional and national variations. It will be an essential resource for anyone who would know or portray the cowboy—readers, writers, songwriters, and actors among them.

The late Lawrence Clayton's books, articles, and reviews focused largely on the contemporary cowboy and ranch life. Jim Hoy, of Emporia, Kansas, writes about the folklife of ranching, from the Australian Outback to the Flint Hills of Kansas. Jerald Underwood, of Uvalde, Texas, is a published authority on the vaquero.


In 2001, Jim Hoy told us about a work in progress, "....a book on frontier photographer  F. M. Steele, whose photos of cowboys at work in the central plains are widely known, although he isn't. He often isn't even credited when the photos are published, as they often are. His work ranks with that of Erwin E. Smith in the southwestern plains and L.A. Huffman in the northern plains." 

Other books include:

Click for Amazon  COWBOYS AND KANSAS: Stories from the Tallgrass Prairie
University of Oklahoma Press, 1995

PLAINS FOLK: A Commonplace of the Great Plains
University of Oklahoma Press, 1987

PLAINS FOLK II: The Romance of the Landscape
University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.
(You can read the Amazon review of this book here)

(The above three books can be ordered from your local bookstore or directly from
the University of Oklahoma Press by calling 1-800-627-7377 or by calling
BOOK KANSAS! at 1-800-790-2665.)

PRAIRIE POETRY: Cowboy Verse of Kansas
Wichita Eagle Beacon Publishing Company, 1995.
(This book can be ordered from your local bookstore or by calling BOOK
KANSAS! At 1-800-790-2665.)

RIDING POINT: A Centennial History of the Kansas Livestock Association
North Dakota State University Center for Regional Studies, 1994.
(This book can be ordered from the Kansas Livestock Association at

Kaw Valley Films, 1987
(This video can be ordered from Kaw Valley Films at 913-631-3040.)

Contacting Jim Hoy 

For contact information and to learn more about Jim Hoy, his writings, and his performances, visit his web site










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