The family has some correspondence and other clues and scraps about another writer she was friends with. He went by the nickname “The Ramblin’ Kid.” In his correspondence he would sometimes refer to Agnes as “The Range Cayuse,” after a book of poetry she wrote of the same name. The Ramblin’ Kid was a successful novel by the author, whose real name was Earl Wayland Bowman. I had done enough research to know that he wrote several books and some screenplays but I got distracted by some shiny object before I could dig up his Idaho connection.
Recently, I did the requisite digging and found his Idaho roots run deep, though he was born in Missouri in 1875. Orphaned at about age 10, he spent many years knocking around Texas and the Southwest working any cowboy kind of job that came his way. This early experience would serve him well as a writer of the American West.
Somewhere along the line he learned how to set type and made his living as a traveling printer. It seemed only natural that he would come up with something to print.
He and his wife, Elva, moved to Idaho in 1901, living first in Weiser, then on a ranch he built up near Council. He began writing for a number of local papers, everything from letters to the editor to poetry. The latter was dense with a religious slant, but apparently popular with readers. He wrote poems regularly for the Idaho Statesman for several years.
Bowman started a periodical titled Homeseekers Monthly, essentially a real estate rag. It later morphed into a magazine called The Golden Trail. It featured short stories, poetry, and articles about Idaho written by Bowman and other writers. It was in The Golden Trail that he began developing his persona as “The Ramblin’ Kid.”
A frequent orator at political gatherings of the day, Bowman somehow got himself elected as an Idaho State Senator in 1914. I’m not the only one who finds this startling. “The Ramblin’ Kid” was a socialist and the only state senator of that persuasion ever elected in Idaho. He got several bills through the Legislature, including the Emergency Employment Act, which put the burden on counties to create jobs for everyone who needed one. Counties heartily resisted it. The Idaho Supreme Court found it unconstitutional 18 months later. Bowman lost the next election and went back to writing.
He passed away in southern California in 1952. His family donated Bowman’s papers to Boise State College in 1972.
Among those papers was a 1923 letter to Agnes Just Reid in which he groused about a letter he had received from the California State Librarian who wanted biographical information on him as a California author. He replied, the he was “an Idaho author if any kind,” and added to Agnes, “I’m all Idaho and want to stay that way.”
For more on Bowman, visit the Special Collections and Archives page on the Boise State University Library website, from which much of this information was gathered.