SAN ANGELO, Texas — When you first step in to the Cactus Book Shop in downtown San Angelo, it can be a little overwhelming. You’re immediately drawn in by the smell of books older than most of the customers that frequent the shop.

Everywhere you look, floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall, the bookshelves are stuffed to their capacity with one of the largest collections of Texas history and Western novels. And then, you’re greeted by Felton Cochran, the proprietor of Cactus Book Shop.

Felton Cochran
Bobby Schuyler

Cochran’s love for reading started at Reagan Elementary School in San Angelo, Texas. He admittedly would wear his mother out from driving him to the library each night so he could read a new book.

After discovering a passion for reading, Cochran quickly found his next passion - Texas history. These days, Cochran has one of the largest collections of Texas history literature in the state, and the single largest collection of western novels by Elmer Kelton. Which makes sense, considering Elmer Kelton wasn’t just one of the greatest Western storytellers of all time, he was one of Cochran’s close friends.

From “The Time It Never Rained” to “The Day the Cowboys Quit,” Kelton wrote more than 40 novels in 50 years. But according to Cochran, Kelton was always in awe of his fame.

"The Time It Never Rained" by Elmer Kelton
Bobby Schuyler

Cochran remembers many times when fans would come to Kelton’s home and knock on his door to have him autograph his books. Kelton would always welcome them in and serve them a cup of coffee too. He was the quintessential “good old boy” who truly appreciated his many fans Cochran said.

With the help of Kelton’s legacy, Cochran hopes to inspire more people to have an interest in Texas history, and Western literature. Whether you’re a serious book collector, or you just have an affinity for history, Cochran welcomes you into his shop to talk about anything and everything Texas. 

Downtown mural featuring Elmer Kelton
Bobby Schuyler