A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 15, 2007
“There never was a horse that couldn’t be rode or a man that couldn’t be throwed” (Will James)

"There never was a horse that couldn’t be rode or a man that couldn’t be throwed” is a bit of cowboy wisdom that’s been attributed to Will James (1892-1942), a cowboy artists and author who was popular in the 1920s and 1930s.


Wikipedia: Will James (artist)
Will James (1892-1942), artist and writer, was born Joseph Ernest Nephtali Dufault, June 6, 1892 in Quebec province, Canada. It was during his creative years everyone grew to know him as Will James.

Will James: Cowboy Artist and Author
A special exhibition at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage explores the tragic and fascinating life of artist and author Will James. On view in the Showcase Gallery from Oct. 3, 1997, through Jan. 4, 1998, Will James: Cowboy Artist and Author provides a rare opportunity for visitors to appreciate the artistic skills of the author of such American classics as Smoky and
Lone Cowboy.

James’ work, which includes 25 beloved novels, continues to appeal to a large audience who grew up reading his books and to new generations of horse fanciers and cowboy fans. This intimate
presentation draws on an unmatched collection of approximately 75 paintings and drawings featuring the private collection of A.P. Hays, Paradise Valley, Arizona, as well as first edition books, numerous early drawings and a newly acquired oil painting from the museum’s collection.

James’ literary career began in the early 1920s, when the lanky cowboy from Nevada sent an essay and illustrations to Scribner’s New York offices. The easy-going, storytelling quality of his
writing, illustrated with his own drawings and paintings, made for a winning combination that was quickly recognized by editor Maxwell Evarts Perkins, who worked with Thomas Wolfe, Emest
Hemingway and other literary giants. James’ first novel, Smoky, won the Newbery Medal in 1927 as the most significant contribution in American literature that year for children, establishing his
place as an enduring writer of note. All 25 of his books are still in print.

Born in Canada as Ernest Dufaut, James left home to be a cowboy. Along with a new name, he manufactured a new identity, claiming different parents and birth in Montana. Despite acclaim
and success in the literary world, his life was tragic. A brief prison term for rustling, a tumultuous marriage and devotion to drink contributed to his untimely death in 1942 at age 50. 

Do You Speak American
Can’t-be-rode-horse
An outlaw; a horse that’s hard to ride. A pungent old Western saying is “Ain’t no horse that can’t be rode, ain’t no man that can’t be throwed.”
Blevins, Win. Dictionary of the American West: Over 5,000 Terms and Expressions from AARIGAA! To ZOPILOTE. Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2001.

7 October 1924, Modesto (CA) Evening News, pg. 6, col. 5:
Will James is a cowboy, but also he is an artist. In his own cow-country vernacular and with his own sketches of bronchos and steers and cow punchers, James has done an epic thing, in its way. He analyzes his scenes and pictures them in the plain idiom of the people. There is no attempt at false grand gesturing and his final philosophy is: “There never was a horse that couldn’t be rode or a man that couldn’t be throwed.” The book is “Cowboys North and South” (Scribners).

4 January 1925, Helena (MT) Daily Independent, pg. 16, cols. 1-3:
The “Real Ornery, Man-eating
Can’t-be-Rode Bronco of West”

4 April 1926, Oakland (CA) Tribune, magazine section:
“I’ve still got to see the rider what couldn’t be throwed and the horse what couldn’t be rode.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Thursday, March 15, 2007 • Permalink