Cowboys Paper

This essay has a total of 1602 words and 6 pages.


American Cowboys Have you ever wondered who the cowboys were; how they lived; or what they
did? The American Cowboy's way of life was interesting and unique, and they contributed
more to society than one might think. Besides looking after stock and driving cattle, they
had to round up huge numbers of cattle for ranchers. This paper will examine the American
cowboy's character, what they wore, the everyday things they did like driving cattle and
branding calves and the lawlessness of the old west. The job wasn't just for anyone.
Certain character traits and physical characteristics were required if someone wanted to
be a good cowboy. Considering the distances that they covered, traveling was rough. "…
the cowboy needed great strength, endurance, and often ingenuity to complete the treks"
("Cowboy"). People came from everywhere to become cowboys. Some came from eastern American
states, others from the Midwest, and the rest came from states in the South. They came to
work on ranches and drive cattle on the trail. "Many were ex-rebel soldiers who maintained
that attitude on the trail. There was also a flood of renegades from both north and south
that went to Texas. This is how Texas got a reputation for lawlessness and violence" (The
Cowboys). Being a cowboy, for some, had a special status. Cowboys in the Western Plains
called themselves cow punchers and thought of themselves as more important than others.
"The man himself, the clothes he wore, and the horse he rode were all outgrowths of life
on the range. The long days in the open, and riding alone with the cattle gave him
self-reliance. The danger of stampeding cattle, of undependable horses, of hostile Indians
and of bitter winter blizzards demanded endurance and courage. The whole job of driving,
roping, and handling cattle required expert horsemanship" ("Cowboys"). Cowboys worked very
hard and also fought hard, but never with their fists. In a fight, a cowboy would always
use his gun (The Cowboys). The reason cowboys used their guns was because of the fact of
the West being lawless. There were two reasons for the west being lawless, one is the
social conditions there during that period and the second because the law there didn't
apply well to the conditions and wasn't obeyed. It was also do to the vast distances
between populated areas, which made it easy for a cowboy to move to another area and get
caught for something he did. Sometimes one had to take the law into their own hands,
that's why cowboy needed to be physically strong, able to use a gun and brave (Frantz and
Choate 84). The attire a cowboy chose was very important to his job. Most things he wore
had a definite purpose and suited the job well. "Their usual gear consisted of a bridle,
saddle, rawhide lariat, spurs, boots, heavy leather chaps, hat, tarp, buffalo robe, and
blankets" (The Cowboys). He also had a woolen or cotton shirt, tight woolen pants and
handkerchief. All of the clothing accessories were chosen for their usefulness. For
example, "A high-crowned, broad-brimmed felt hat, the sombrero, shielded him from the sun
and rain. His soft-legged boots had high heels set far under the instep to hold his ankle
clear of the heavy stirrup" ("Cowboy"). His handkerchief protected his face by shielding
it from the sun and preventing dust from entering his mouth. The tight pants were worn for
a reason; they protected his legs from brush and insects ("Cowboys"). The things a cowboy
wore were essential to life and they always used these things. A cowboy's job mainly
involved the rounding up of cattle and driving the cattle to the destinations designated
by the ranch owner. The first drives were short; they went over safe routes to locations
in Texas and Louisiana (Java Script). Before moving the cattle, cowboys had to make sure
that they were moving the right cattle from the herd. Cattle were branded to tell them
apart from the others. The branding was done by having an expert roper catch the cattle by
the legs with rope, loop the rope around the legs, and then drag the animal to where the
branding irons were being heated. The adult cattle were thrown on their sides and the
red-hot branding irons were pressed into the hides of the animals. Calves were stamped
with the same mark as its mother. Earmarks that were cut into their ears also identified
cattle ("Cowboy"). After the cattle were branded, the drive began. "The first week on the
trail was the crucial one. Cattle were strongly attached to their home range and did not
like to leave it. If the herd could be properly broken to the road they would be much
easier to drive the rest of the way. There would be less danger of the hazard that cowboys
dreaded most, the stampede or the run" (Seidman 66). Not just any cowboy was taken on the
trail. "Usually only the ablest and most experienced men were taken along on the trail. An
average trail crew consisted of a trail boss, a cook, a horse wrangler and eight to
eighteen cowboys, depending on the size of the herd (Seidman 67). With the completion of
the round-up of the correctly identified cattle, the cattle began their journey to the
shipping point for the stock. The drive was headed by a trail boss to ensure the success
of the drive. "A good trail boss could make or break the success of the Drive. He must
have experience with cattle, horses, and men, plus know the country, the rivers, and the
weather" (The Cowboys). The trail boss was very important to a successful drive. There was
a certain pattern that he always followed. He rode ahead of the rest, surveying the area
and checking for dangers. After carefully checking the area, the trail boss signaled the
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