Have you ever wondered who the cowboys were; howthey lived; or what they did? The American Cowboysway of life was interesting and unique, and theycontributed more to society than one might think.
Besides looking after stock and driving cattle,they had to round up huge numbers of cattle forranchers. This paper will examine the Americancowboys character, what they wore, the everydaythings they did like driving cattle and brandingcalves and the lawlessness of the old west. Thejob wasnt just for anyone.
Certain charactertraits and physical characteristics were requiredif someone wanted to be a good cowboy. Consideringthe distances that they covered, traveling wasrough. the cowboy needed great strength,endurance, and often ingenuity to complete thetreks (Cowboy).People came from everywhere tobecome cowboys. Some came from eastern Americanstates, others from the Midwest, and the rest camefrom states in the South. They came to work onranches and drive cattle on the trail.
Many wereex-rebel soldiers who maintained that attitude onthe trail. There was also a flood of renegadesfrom both north and south that went to Texas. Thisis how Texas got a reputation for lawlessness andviolence (The Cowboys).Being a cowboy, for some,had a special status. Cowboys in the WesternPlains called themselves cow punchers and thoughtof themselves as more important than others. Theman himself, the clothes he wore, and the horse herode were all outgrowths of life on the range.
Thelong days in the open, and riding alone with thecattle gave him self-reliance. The danger ofstampeding cattle, of undependable horses, ofhostile Indians and of bitter winter blizzardsdemanded endurance and courage. The whole job ofdriving, roping, and handling cattle requiredexpert horsemanship (Cowboys).
Cowboys worked veryhard and also fought hard, but never with theirfists. In a fight, a cowboy would always use hisgun (The Cowboys). The reason cowboys used theirguns was because of the fact of the West beinglawless. There were two reasons for the west beinglawless, one is the social conditions there duringthat period and the second because the law theredidnt apply well to the conditions and wasntobeyed. It was also do to the vast distancesbetween populated areas, which made it easy for acowboy to move to another area and get caught forsomething he did. Sometimes one had to take thelaw into their own hands, thats why cowboy neededto be physically strong, able to use a gun andbrave (Frantz and Choate 84).The attire a cowboychose was very important to his job. Most thingshe wore had a definite purpose and suited the jobwell.
Their usual gear consisted of a bridle,saddle, rawhide lariat, spurs, boots, heavyleather chaps, hat, tarp, buffalo robe, andblankets (The Cowboys). He also had a woolen orcotton shirt, tight woolen pants and handkerchief.All of the clothing accessories were chosen fortheir usefulness.
For example, A high-crowned,broad-brimmed felt hat, the sombrero, shielded himfrom the sun and rain. His soft-legged boots hadhigh heels set far under the instep to hold hisankle clear of the heavy stirrup (Cowboy).Hishandkerchief protected his face by shielding itfrom the sun and preventing dust from entering hismouth.
The tight pants were worn for a reason;they protected his legs from brush and insects(Cowboys). The things a cowboy wore were essentialto life and they always used these things. Acowboys job mainly involved the rounding up ofcattle and driving the cattle to the destinationsdesignated by the ranch owner. The first driveswere short; they went over safe routes tolocations in Texas and Louisiana (Java Script).Before moving the cattle, cowboys had to make surethat they were moving the right cattle from theherd.
Cattle were branded to tell them apart fromthe others.The branding was done by having anexpert roper catch the cattle by the legs withrope, loop the rope around the legs, and then dragthe animal to where the branding irons were beingheated. The adult cattle were thrown on theirsides and the red-hot branding irons were pressedinto the hides of the animals. Calves were stampedwith the same mark as its mother. Earmarks thatwere cut into their ears also identified cattle(Cowboy). After the cattle were branded, the drivebegan. The first week on the trail was the crucialone.
Cattle were strongly attached to their homerange and did not like to leave it. If the herdcould be properly broken to the road they would bemuch easier to drive the rest of the way. Therewould be less danger of the hazard that cowboysdreaded most, the stampede or the run (Seidman66). Not just any cowboy was taken on the trail.
Usually only the ablest and most experienced menwere taken along on the trail. An average trailcrew consisted of a trail boss, a cook, a horsewrangler and eight to eighteen cowboys, dependingon the size of the herd (Seidman 67). With thecompletion of the round-up of the correctlyidentified cattle, the cattle began their journeyto the shipping point for the stock.The drive washeaded by a trail boss to ensure the success ofthe drive. A good trail boss could make or breakthe success of the Drive. He must have experiencewith cattle, horses, and men, plus know thecountry, the rivers, and the weather (TheCowboys). The trail boss was very important to asuccessful drive.
There was a certain pattern thathe always followed. He rode ahead of the rest,surveying the area and checking for dangers.Aftercarefully checking the area, the trail bosssignaled the other men where the path was and thedirection for them to go (Seidman 67). A trailboss also had to check on the surroundings aheadof the herd to make sure there was a safe place tostop for the night and look for a source of waterfor the herd to drink from along the way. They hadto check on how many horses there was along theway too. They had to know how to get cows acrossrivers or many of the cows may drown (TheCowboys). The Red River was the most hazardousbecause upstream storms frequently caused floodsthat wiped out herds and men (The Cowboys).
One ofthe worst things that could happen was for theherd to stampede.Storms, wild animals, andhostile Indians easily startled the herds. Astampede created complete chaos and danger for allthe cowboys and cattle. The herd often ran formany miles before settling down and then needed tobe rounded up again (Cowboy). Usually at the endof the drive, the cattle was processed and thenbrought aboard ships for transport. The problemwith these routes is that they were quicklyoverworked and the amount of cattle being shippedsoon exceeded the demand for it (Java Script).After the backbreaking work on the trail and offit, American cowboys did take the time to relaxand have fun.
Driving cattle and branding calveswasnt the only thing they did, cowboys loved to goto town and live it up.They most often danced,drank, gambled and like to buy women. A cowboyworked very hard for his money but didnt careabout it because he could spend three to fourmonths pay in just a few nights of fun out on thetown. American cowboys knew how to live it up.
Just as I said before, cowboys were always readyto fight, in the hint of someone taking advantageof them, robbing or cheating them there was afight. Bar-room brawls were a common thing back inthe Old West, they happened often and when thefighters took their guns out it usually resultedin two dead cowboys (Speidman 90-94). As I haveshown you, the life of a cowboy was very hard attimes, with the chance everyday that you could dieor lose everything you had. Even though they havegood times, American Cowboys deserve a good amountof credit for the things they did for society.Asstated in the thesis, the American cowboy wasunique and interesting and contributed in manydifferent ways to our society.
Through hard workand the ability to endure harsh workingconditions, cowboys historically have been seen asexamples of American workers with strong workethics. Economically, the American cowboycontributed greatly to the cattle movementindustry during the opening of the western part ofthe United States. The various backgrounds of theearly American cowboys brought different attitudesand behaviors that resulted in the need for alegal system to the early West. Cowboys wereimportant to American society. Bibliography: Wende6 Works Cited Cowboy.Comptons Encyclopedia.
1989ed. Encarta 96 CD-ROM: Microsoft, 1993-1995.Gibson, Beth. The Cowboys 28 Dec. 1999http://www.
members.aol.com/Gibson0817/cowboys.htlm Huff, Madilene and Dick. Java Script10 Nov.1999http://www.net.westhost.com/trail2.htm.