This was a history lesson to me and, I suspect, to most people. What do we know about "open range" back in the 1800s? Well, Kevin Costner tells us in this documentary, one of the features to the "Open Range" movie DVD.
We learn that as of 1840, most of the west still was "Indian Territory" and pretty much unexplored but things changed quite a bit in the next 50 years.
This documentary is played like a Ken Burns' one on PBS, such as the "Baseball" series or the one of the Civil War. A still picture is shown and then Costner or someone else reads a quote from a letter from one of the people who lived through those times. Interestingly, one of the people turned out to be a U.S. President: Theodore Roosevelt. We also hear from two women, one of whom took a lot of pictures. All the accounts explain a very rough life for those who endured the open range, from settlers to free-grazers to cattlemen who drove large herds of cattle, usually from Texas up north. It doesn't sound like a fun existence.
It also was interesting to hear of two of the things that had the most dramatic impact on the open range during the 1870s and 1880s: he invention of barbed wire, and then two of the most brutal winters in the nation's history which killed a ton of cattle. How does 46 degrees below zero sound?
Overall, a very informative and interesting documentary and kind of a sad story.
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