For generations, the Wrights of southern Utah have raised cattle and world-champion saddle-bronc riders ― some call them the most successful rodeo family in history.
Now, Bill and Evelyn Wright, parents to 13 children and grandparents to many more, find themselves struggling to hang on to the majestic landscape where they’ve been running cattle for 150 years as the West is transformed by urbanization, battered by drought and rearranged by public-land disputes.
Could rodeo, of all things, be the answer? Pulitzer Prize-winning writer John Branch chronicles three years in the life of the Wrights in “The Last Cowboys: A Pioneer Family in the New West.”
John Branch is a reporter for The New York Times. He won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2013 for "Snow Fall," a story about a deadly avalanche in Washington State, and was a finalist for the prize in 2012 for his series of stories about Derek Boogaard, a professional hockey player who overdosed on painkillers. His first book, “Boy on Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard,” won the PEN/ESPN Prize for Literary Sports Writing. Raised in Colorado, he lives with his family near San Francisco.
John Branch will read from and sign copies of “The Last Cowboys” at The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City on Saturday at 7 p.m.
He talked with Access Utah on Wednesday as part of the “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” Initiative administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils in partnership with the Pulitzer Prizes Board for a collaboration between UPR, Utah Humanities, The Salt Lake Tribune and The Salt Lake City Library. The initiative seeks to deepen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the vital connections between democracy, the humanities, journalism and an informed citizenry. The “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” Initiative is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.