Man or Myth?
Owen Wister immortalized the American Cowboy in his novel The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains. The Virginian became the standard by which future western heroes would be modeled.
Did the author actually know a man that inspired his western hero? This is the question that has been debated since the book was first published in1902. What if there was such a man; who was he and why did Owen Wister not acknowledge the man that had influenced one of the most renowned characters of the twentieth century?
Toni David believes there was such a man and endeavors to answer these questions. “I had assumed as many had, that Owen Wister had fabricated his main character, but it took only one sentence from the book The Virginian at Medicine Bow by Glen Barrett to change my mind. Barrett stated that Owen Wister had ridden with the Ora Haley’s Two-Bar Outfit. That one sentence cinched it for me.”
“I believe the events in the Virginian were a composite, but Owen Wister’s hero was not. No, Wister didn’t need to build his hero from a mixture of cowboys; because he had found it all in one man.”