The Texas Boys - by T. J. "Texas" Pilgrim

The Texas Boys - by T. J. "Texas" Pilgrim

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A Texas Tom Sawyer? 

What if there was a Texas version of Mark Twain's classic Tom Sawyer? 

What if it contained the first authentic account of cattle trailing and cowboy life ever written? 

What if it also contained the first Mexican-American protagonist in literature?

Well, there is such a book.

The Texas Boys by Thomas Jefferson "Texas" Pilgrim is the story of Charley Zanco and his friend Nasho on the Texas cattle trail. Written in 1877, it is all that and more.

Is that his real name?

Yes. Thomas J. Pilgrim, Jr., called "Texas" by his family, was the son of the first Anglo teacher in Texas. His father settled in Austin's colony in 1829 and taught the three Rs to the youngsters in the vicinity of San Felipe de Austin.

Texas Pilgrim was born in 1847 on the family ranch near Gonzales. He trained as a lawyer, served as clerk in the Texas House of Representatives and taught school at Prof. Bickler's English and German Academy in Austin.

So why did he write The Texas Boys?

The year previous, 1876, Mark Twain had published Tom Sawyer to wide acclaim. Folks back east ate up the accurate depiction of life on the Mississippi written in the vernacular of the people who lived there.

Texas Pilgrim thought he could do the same for his home state. But don't go thinking Charley and Nasho are carbon copies of Tom and Huck.

Sure there are similarities.
  All four boys are orphans. Tom and Charlie are romantically inclined and dream of adventure. Huck and Nasho are pragmatic and wiser in the ways of the world.

But Tom is a mischievous slacker while Huck lies, cheats and steals.

Such traits did not sit well with an author whose father was known as "the Sunday School Man of Texas."

No, Charley and Nasho live on a
dangerous frontier with no room for such nonsense. They are both fourteen and that's plenty old enough to earn your keep on the Texas frontier.

Pilgrim wanted to show the rest of America what Texans are like. Independent, loyal, resourceful, trustworthy and brave. Nasho and Charley make fine ambassadors. You're going to like them.

"I live away over in Texas, in Kerr County, on a little creek called Turtle up in the mountain."
- Charley Zanco

Nasho is the first Mexican American protagonist in literature.

As Charley tells it:

"Nasho ain't his right name. He is a Mexican and his name is Ygnacio de Garapitas, but we always call him Nasho because it is shorter."

So why hasn't everyone heard of this book and why hasn't it been more widely read?

I ask myself the same question, and the only reason I come up with is people think it's fiction.

But that's not really the case.

Dobie Knew the Truth

J. Frank Dobie knew this book and called it, "a chronicle, little fictionalized, of a trail drive to Kansas. So far as I know, this is the first narrative printed on cattle trailing or cowboy life that is to be accounted as authentic." In a footnote to his book, The Mustangs, he calls it, "an arranged chronicle rather than fiction."

And that's the thing about it. It reads true to life.

It's obvious that Texas Pilgrim is writing down stories that have been told to him by someone who has lived them. He may have changed the names, but the events are real.

It would even be accurate to say that The Texas Boys is the first Western, making it the tale that begat Zane Gray, Louis L'Amour and Elmer Kelton.

The Earliest Ancestor of Lonesome Dove

Not only is it authentic, it's a hell of a fun read. This is real old fashioned adventure. You will savor every page.

You can also read it to your kids or grandkids. It's fast paced enough to hold a modern youngster's attention and a great way to start a conversation about what it means to be a Texan.


Physical Details

  • Standard Edition Hardcover
  • Satin Finish Dustjacket
  • 230 pages



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  • Shipping is 5 dollars, anywhere in the United States.
  • Your book will be packed the old fashioned way, in an actual box. No cheap book mailers.


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