To Be a Cowboy: Oliver Christensen's Story


148 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55238-117-X
DDC 636.2'13'092




Reviewed by Frits Pannekoek

Frits Pannekoek is the president of Athabasca University, and the author
of A Snug Little Flock: The Social Origins of the Riel Resistance of


The lives of Otto and Oliver Christensen, father and son, illustrate as
so many settler stories do the importance of international and national
events in shaping individual lives. Otto started out as an indentured
servant in Denmark and in 1907 emigrated to Canada where he eventually
became a successful farmer. Holliday developed this book from Otto’s
diaries and family papers, and from a series of oral history interviews
she conducted with Oliver in an eight-year period starting in 1994.

In many ways, To Be a Cowboy is a quintessential rags-to-riches pioneer
story of struggle, adversity, and success in the new land. Most
interesting is Oliver’s conversion from dairy farmer to cowboy. He was
part of the great Bar U ranch and describes in detail day-to-day life at
the ranch and ranching culture. Although farming occupied most of
Oliver’s life, it was the ranch that shaped his psyche; being a
cowboy, he admitted, was a “childhood dream—being a farmer was a
man’s dream.”

To Be a Cowboy is an excellent addition to the Legacies Shared Series,
which has shown time and again that individuals do in fact make a


Holliday, Barbara., “To Be a Cowboy: Oliver Christensen's Story,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024,