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Last Go Round: A Real Western

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Out of the mists of Oregon lore, Ken Kesey has summoned a long-remembered story he first heard as a boy from his father around a campfire: the "last go round" at the Pendleton Round-Up in 1911, which pitted three cowboys against each other as they rode for the first world broncbusting crown. Photos.


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Out of the mists of Oregon lore, Ken Kesey has summoned a long-remembered story he first heard as a boy from his father around a campfire: the "last go round" at the Pendleton Round-Up in 1911, which pitted three cowboys against each other as they rode for the first world broncbusting crown. Photos.

30 review for Last Go Round: A Real Western

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Carson

    I should explain some of the background of the history behind Last Go Round. In 1911, the Pendleton Roundup, held on the Columbia River prairie in Oregon, was heavily promoted as the World Championship Rodeo of all time. Colorful characters such as William Cody (Buffalo Bill) were in attendance as well as all of the genuine rodeo elite of the time. Much like the author, Ken Kesey, I was introduced to the Pendleton roundup in the 1960s as the premiere annual rodeo event. We went in our western we I should explain some of the background of the history behind Last Go Round. In 1911, the Pendleton Roundup, held on the Columbia River prairie in Oregon, was heavily promoted as the World Championship Rodeo of all time. Colorful characters such as William Cody (Buffalo Bill) were in attendance as well as all of the genuine rodeo elite of the time. Much like the author, Ken Kesey, I was introduced to the Pendleton roundup in the 1960s as the premiere annual rodeo event. We went in our western wear and watched it all, horse races, roping, bulldogging, and of course bronc and bull riding. It was a spectacle and some of the participants were truly amazing athletes. Obviously, I have some nostalgia about this topic. I also know some of the families who are related to characters in the book. I am sure they have concerns about the Merry Prankster's treatment of them in the book especially since there are obviously events that are created or exaggerated by Kesey. The book is a modern tall tale woven among historical fact and the rumors, recollections of old timers, and a hefty dose of loco weed to spice up the story of the legendary contest. The facts are that three contestants were in close pursuit of the overall prize. George Fletcher was a flamboyant black cowboy and local favorite to win in Pendleton. Jackson Sundown, a working cowboy and Nez Perce Indian was a quietly confident competitor and a master horseman. The wildcard in the contest for the crown is young Jonathan Spain, a new face in western rodeo; he looks a bit like Harry Connick Jr. The newcomer arrived from Tennessee on a big horse named Stonewall with the intent to win. The adventures of these three principal characters and the events that transpired are at once sweet and tragic, told in classic Kesey style. It is a story about the passing of the old west, of our nation's struggles with racism and the treatment of Native peoples, and it also captures the essence of the thrill and excitement of rodeo.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    I was actually born in Pendleton, where the Round Up is still held every year and it seems like half the West turns out for it. I remember very little of the events themselves, but I remember the buildup to the event every year: the parade with the Round Up Princesses and various tribes, the RVs rolling in from states on the far side of the Rockies, and the week we got off of school during Round Up. Last Go Round is far more fiction than it is fact, but if I wanted to read fact I wouldn't have r I was actually born in Pendleton, where the Round Up is still held every year and it seems like half the West turns out for it. I remember very little of the events themselves, but I remember the buildup to the event every year: the parade with the Round Up Princesses and various tribes, the RVs rolling in from states on the far side of the Rockies, and the week we got off of school during Round Up. Last Go Round is far more fiction than it is fact, but if I wanted to read fact I wouldn't have read this. I read it while I was camping/hunting south of Pendleton, and I can't imagine a more perfect setting. Kesey does a great job of breathing life into each figure, although each character manages to be both well-drawn and stereotypical. There were racist moments that seemed inserted for the sake of being racist. The women existed only in relation to the men (I adore Kesey's writing but whooo boy does he have a serious woman problem). Overall, I'd recommend it if 1) like me, you happen to be from that area of the country, 2) you're making your way through the dozen or so novels ever set in Oregon, or 3) like me, you're a Kesey fan, for better or worse.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    This was a really fun read. It is very different than Kesey's other books, in that it was just a feel good story about 3 guys competing at a rodeo. There is nothing super powerful about this, and it won't blow you away, but pretty much anyone will enjoy it. The three main character are John Spain, George Fletcher, and Sundown Jackson (all real people), and this story follows them throughout the 3-4 days of the first ever World Championship Rodeo in Pendleton, OR (I think OR), in 1911. These guys This was a really fun read. It is very different than Kesey's other books, in that it was just a feel good story about 3 guys competing at a rodeo. There is nothing super powerful about this, and it won't blow you away, but pretty much anyone will enjoy it. The three main character are John Spain, George Fletcher, and Sundown Jackson (all real people), and this story follows them throughout the 3-4 days of the first ever World Championship Rodeo in Pendleton, OR (I think OR), in 1911. These guys are hilarious, and great cowboys, and it is non-stop shenanigans, gamblin' and wranglin' while fighting back against the man (Buffalo Bill and some world champ, roided up wrestler named Gotch). This book has the perfect amount of romance (very little) and tragedy (also very little). It is a light hearted read that will make you chuckle and love these three guys.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    "Last Go Round" is a historically based, folklore embellished tale of rodeo in Pendleton OR about 100 years ago, complete with photos of the actual persons and events described! The life and times are wild and crazy, and the real life characters are colorful and human. It is a fascinating "inside" look at what life was like in the rodeo circuit of the West. The Pendleton event is still held to this day, and is known as the Pendleton Round-Up ( https://www.pendletonroundup.com/ ) This author caugh "Last Go Round" is a historically based, folklore embellished tale of rodeo in Pendleton OR about 100 years ago, complete with photos of the actual persons and events described! The life and times are wild and crazy, and the real life characters are colorful and human. It is a fascinating "inside" look at what life was like in the rodeo circuit of the West. The Pendleton event is still held to this day, and is known as the Pendleton Round-Up ( https://www.pendletonroundup.com/ ) This author caught my eye because of another more widely know book that he authored and i've read: "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (of movie fame).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dean

    I lost interest 30 pages in. Not my cup of tea. Kesey's earlier works were a lot more interesting to me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ian Billick

    Entertaining but hard to follow at times.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Akysian

    This is a fun read! My favorite Ken Kesey book ever.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ahimsa

    Kesey is a master of characterization and this book is low-key unputtable down.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jo Mooney

    Anytime I read Ken Kesey it makes me want to write my own weird stuff but this one's a story about the first time the saddle was won @ the Pendleton Round Up

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jimyanni

    This book is a very well-written story, with an interesting plot apparently based on a true story, and several interesting characters. It is, however, vastly different from Kesey's two better-known novels, "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" and "Sometimes A Great Notion". Oh, like them it has some larger-than-life characters triumphing over obstacles, and like them it is set in the American Northwest. But the writing style is far less idiosyncratic; like "Cuckoo's Nest", it is told in first perso This book is a very well-written story, with an interesting plot apparently based on a true story, and several interesting characters. It is, however, vastly different from Kesey's two better-known novels, "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" and "Sometimes A Great Notion". Oh, like them it has some larger-than-life characters triumphing over obstacles, and like them it is set in the American Northwest. But the writing style is far less idiosyncratic; like "Cuckoo's Nest", it is told in first person, but not stream-of-consciousness, and the narrator's mental processes are much easier to follow. And unlike "Sometimes...", we only ever see the action through a single mental perspective, not 22. So it is a much more traditional style of story-telling. What's more, it seems for the most part to be missing the "hero against conformist society" theme of those novels; there's a touch of it to be found but only a touch. This doesn't make it any less well-written, but if those things were what you like about Kesey's other novels, don't read this one just on that account. If, on the other hand, you didn't care for the fancy stylistic games of those novels, don't let that turn you away from this one. It's just a good, solid story. No more, no less.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Theophilus (Theo)

    Absolutely loved it. An exciting book about real people, a real event, and some riveting story-telling. I enjoy reading about African Americans in the West and this character, George Fletcher goes right up to the top of the heap with characters such as Deadwood Dick. Told from the point of view of someone who meets Fletcher on the way to the 1911 Pendleton (Oregon) Rodeo this story tells of the social problems in a turn-of-the-century western town without preaching. Other characters in the story Absolutely loved it. An exciting book about real people, a real event, and some riveting story-telling. I enjoy reading about African Americans in the West and this character, George Fletcher goes right up to the top of the heap with characters such as Deadwood Dick. Told from the point of view of someone who meets Fletcher on the way to the 1911 Pendleton (Oregon) Rodeo this story tells of the social problems in a turn-of-the-century western town without preaching. Other characters in the story; Buffalo Bill Cody, Jackson Sundown (native American rodeo performer), Prairie Rose Henderson, and the narrator - John Lee Spain were all real people too. The spectacular riding ability of the performers is documented. This would make an excellent movie (my highest rating :>).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen (itpdx)

    A fictionalized account of an early Pendleton Round-up, that featured a Nez Perce, an African-American, and a white southerner in a saddlebronc ride-off after a three way tie for the all-round title. The narrator is the southerner telling his story many years later in oral cowboy fashion. This was Kesey's last published novel and was written with his friend Ken Babbs. "A rip snorter of a yarn (with) a surprising degree of wishful complexity." The New York Times Lots of fun and humor but the book A fictionalized account of an early Pendleton Round-up, that featured a Nez Perce, an African-American, and a white southerner in a saddlebronc ride-off after a three way tie for the all-round title. The narrator is the southerner telling his story many years later in oral cowboy fashion. This was Kesey's last published novel and was written with his friend Ken Babbs. "A rip snorter of a yarn (with) a surprising degree of wishful complexity." The New York Times Lots of fun and humor but the book also has a lot to say about racism, sexism, male bonding, entertainment promotion and the end of the pioneer west.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joyce Reynolds-Ward

    Not Kesey's best book for sure. While I liked the interaction between John Spain, Jackson Sundown, and George Fletcher, there were some glitches that threw me out of the story. At least two geography things were wrong, and then there was a horse thing that also didn't sit right with me. Little things like that which just don't work, and in a novelization of a real event like this, those are just the kind of details you want to get as correct as possible. Oh well. Great characterization, and even Not Kesey's best book for sure. While I liked the interaction between John Spain, Jackson Sundown, and George Fletcher, there were some glitches that threw me out of the story. At least two geography things were wrong, and then there was a horse thing that also didn't sit right with me. Little things like that which just don't work, and in a novelization of a real event like this, those are just the kind of details you want to get as correct as possible. Oh well. Great characterization, and even if it wasn't Kesey's best book, he still wrote some pretty dang good dialogue and built some strong characters.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Ward

    Last Go Round: A Real Western by Ken Kesey with Ken Babbs (Viking 1994) (Fiction – Western). Kesey recounts an old Oregon cowboy tale that his father told him. It's the story of “The Last Roundup” on the Pendleton Ranch in 1911. It sounds a lot more interesting than it was. Think more Sometimes a Great Notion and less One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. DNF. My rating: 3/10, finished 2008.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Deon Stonehouse

    The Pendleton Roundup is the setting for the last of Ken Kesey’s novels. He spins an entertaining yarn populated with many famous western characters, like Buffalo Bill Cody, around the real episode of a 1911 competition between George Fletcher, an African American cowboy, Jackson Sundown, a Nez Pierce bronco buster, and John Spain, a southerner. It is an entertaining novel focusing on a bit of Oregon history.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ray Sinclair

    Historical fiction about the Pendelton, Oregon rodeo of 1911. First person narration by one of the rodeo's stars, a young kid from Tennesse. He reports his slightly star-struck conversations and wild activities with two other, more experienced stars. All three are historical figures. Buffalo Bill and other historical characters have minor roles, but it is the relationships between the three stars that is the focus. Photographs.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    I found this title on a list of 40 Books set in the Pacific Northwest at http://www.powells.com/blog/required-.... I found this to be an amusing Western tale, although it was liberally sprinkled with un-politically correct race descriptions. Not out of place given that the story takes place at the first annual Pendleton Round-Up in 1911, though the book was published in 1994. I found this title on a list of 40 Books set in the Pacific Northwest at http://www.powells.com/blog/required-.... I found this to be an amusing Western tale, although it was liberally sprinkled with un-politically correct race descriptions. Not out of place given that the story takes place at the first annual Pendleton Round-Up in 1911, though the book was published in 1994.

  18. 5 out of 5

    DeMisty Bellinger

    Addresses racism, sexism, sex, and bronco riding. What more can you ask for? Kesey's humor is exquisitely displayed, descriptions are bigger than the silver (or HD) screen, and the whole thing makes you want to be a cowboy/cowgirl. Or "Indian" (Kesey likes his big Native Americans). Or a black cowboy who's the best rodeo star in history. Fun.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    This was a kinda interesting novel from Ken Kesey....the koolaid man.... Historical Fiction, written from the perspective of one of the main players in an event of history. Perhaps plays off the crude jokes....A White Cowboy, a black cowboy, and an indian cowboy walk into a bar.....as those are the 3 main characters....great look at gender and race and culture rolled into one....

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    the first Pendelton Round Up. I Read this story by our local Author Ken Kesey, And was very entertained. I truly hope that some of the story was true but do kinda doubt it. But when I go to Pendelton I intend to find out. Regardless this book was very good and from an author that my mom did not like much, But that is another story.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Rojo

    One of my favorites...a wild ride into this fictionalized account of the first Pendleton Rodeo. I loved the characters and it is one of my favorite books to give to friends who are outdoor type loving animals and independent characters both male and female.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Georgene

    Being from Oregon, I found this bit historical fiction interesting. I know Kesey is a big Oregon author, but this is the first book of his that I have read. The story is a mix of factual history and fiction surrounding the early days of the famous Pendleton Round-Up. I found it a good short read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mark Allen

    It was the authors that drew me to this book--having thoroughly enjoyed all things Kesey, I was fascinated by a pairing with Babbs, another Merry Prankster. The backdrop of an early 20th century rodeo was intriguing. It did not disappoint.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    good true story nicely embellished by Kesey

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nora

    It's Ken Kesey, cowboys, and horses, so I was obviously going to like it. But I enjoyed it so much that I'm going into an immediate reread, which I never do.

  26. 5 out of 5

    joelene

    Yeah buddy! I had fallin' off the reading wagon but this book has spurred me back aboard. I really enjoyed reading this.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Steve Williams

    Setting for story was eastern Oregon during the Pendelton Roundup. Great storyline includes African-Amercian cowboy, I enjoyed the character development of this person.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Anna Alexander

    I really, really wanted to like this book. I liked the characters and found the premise of the book fascinating, it just failed to hold my attention. And I love Ken Kesey books.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Kesey's choice to use a kind of folksy dialect to tell this story mingling fact and fiction makes it difficult to read, at least for me. But the stories and characters are wonderful.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christian

    Enjoyable book, fun to escape into a good, simple story sometimes.

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