Tag: international day of the cowboy

Let’s Get Ready for the National Day of the Cowboy

July 22nd is the National Day of the Cowboy, so the fillies decided to give everyone a quick overview of Cowboy History in preparation for the big day.

The first cowboys in the United States weren’t called cowboys—they were colonial-era cattlemen in western Massachusetts, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina. These men typically did not ride horses as they pushed their cattle from area to area, following the grass, often grazing in trespass on public domain.

Modern cowboys developed after the Civil War. Wild cattle had proliferated in Texas at the same time that beef was in short supply in the north. A $4 steer in Texas, could bring $40 up north. The cattle drives began in 1866, primarily to Missouri, where the cattle could be loaded on trains. The men who pushed the cattle were called cowboys. They faced harsh conditions and were challenged by Native Americans and farmers who didn’t want the cattle crossing their land. As time passed, more trails were developed throughout the west and more men became cowboys.

When open range ended in the west, after the terrible winters of 1887-1888 decimated the cattle industry, cowboys began building and fixing fences, growing hay and managing herds. Cattle from several outfits/ranches were often run together on the same range, then rounded up by cowboys from the various ranches. The cows would be divided out according to their mark or brand, which was why branding was so important in those days—and still is, for the exact same reason.

Cowboys today do essentially the same work as their forefathers, and wear the same gear—a broad brimmed hat to keep off the sun, boots with heels to keep their feet from sliding through the stirrups and getting hung up in the case of an accident, denim or canvas pants, a vest to keep warm in winter and to add an extra layer of protection from prickly plants and barbwire in the summer, a wild rag to soak up sweat or keep the neck warm in the colder months (silk works best for both).

Cowboys are mythical in some ways and real as can be in others—and maybe it’s that thin line between fantasy and reality that keeps the cowboy alive and well in our hearts.

Petticoats & Pistols © 2015