There are few things that smack of the Old West as much as a cattle drive and all that one entailed–cowboys, drovers, rowdy cowtowns. Remudas of horses and thousands of head of longhorn cattle. Dust and sweat–and fortunes made at the end of the line.
One lesser known facet of the era is the cattle queen, a rare and intriguing breed of woman who owned her own ranch and herd. A hard life made harder without a man at her side.
I had long wanted to build a story combining those parts of America’s history, and UNTAMED COWBOY was born.
But once I had the plot in mind, my creativity stalled. What did I know about cattle drives–besides almost nothing? So I hit the Internet and found some lovely rare book sites. Along the way, I uncovered some intriguing tidbits of information. Here’s a few I’ll share with you:
1. The horns on longhorn cattle had a spread of up to seven feet wide and were strong enough to rip bark off a tree.
2. The average size herd during the peak of the cattle drive era was 3,000 head. It took a remuda of 75 horses and 7 – 10 cowboys to drive the herds. Trail bosses were paid $100/month, the cook $50/month and each cowboy, $30/month. These were minimal expenses for herds that when sold netted their owners $100,000 for a trip that took anywhere from several weeks to several months. Do the math. That’s a hefty profit for the time.
3. The usual fare for cowboys was beans, bacon, hard biscuits and strong coffee. Ironically, though they were surrounded by beef, the outfits rarely killed a beef on the trail because only a smart part of the meat could be eaten before it spoiled.
4. In dry country, thirsty cattle could smell water ten miles away.
5. Lightning was the most common cause of death on the trail. During a storm, the cowboys would hide their silver (metal spurs, knives, even six-shooters) to avoid being struck.
For those rare times when beef was available, the camp cook would make his own version of “Sonofabitch Stew.” (Sorry–I don’t mean to offend anyone, but this is what they called it. Honest! Variations were SOB Stew, or Son-of-a-gun Stew.)
Here’s one yummy-sounding recipe:
2 lbs. lean beef
Half a calf heart
1 ½ pounds calf liver
1 set sweetbreads (thymus gland)
1 set brains
1 set marrow gut
Louisiana hot sauce
Kill off a young steer and cut up beef, liver and heart into 1 inch cubes. Slice the marrow gut into small rings. Place in a Dutch oven or deep casserole. Cover meat with water and simmer 2 – 3 hours.
Add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Take sweetbreads and brains and cut in small pieces. Add to stew. Simmer another hour, never boiling.
Eww! <gag, choke!> Can you imagine eating this?
(By the way, this picture is one an old-time photographer took of cowboys eating the stew out on the range.)
What are some of the strangest foods you’ve eaten? Where were you when you ate it? How did it taste?
Let us know, and you’ll be eligible to win an autographed copy of UNTAMED COWBOY and a couple of sparkly Harlequin pens!
Okay. I’ll go first. My Sicilian grandmother used to fry zucchini blossoms, and they were the best! She’d go out into her garden first thing in the morning when the bright yellow blossoms were open (during the hottest part of the day, they’d close). Now, maybe you didn’t know there were female and male blossoms, but there are. The female part bears the fruit, so if you pick those, you won’t have any zucchini. She’d pick the male blossoms, dip them into beaten eggs, dredge them in seasoned bread crumbs, romano cheese, salt and pepper and fried them. Mmm. I can almost smell them now. A wonderful Italian treat and a treasured memory!
I look forward to hearing from you!
And don’t forget to enter our FALL BONANZA CONTEST–just go to the Primrose News Office page, and we’ll tell you how!
Pam has written 30 romances, most of them historical westerns, but she's proud of her contemporary sweet romances featuring the Blackstone Ranch series published by Tule Publishing, too! Stay up on the latest at www.pamcrooks.com
28 thoughts on “That Long River of Brown”
I loved the book Untamed Cowboy!
Some of the strangest things I’ve eaten…Muscles(yuck) alligator(no matter what anyone says it doe not taste like chicken) and turtle(also not a favorite of mine!!)
Pam, a little note to you! I love your work!!
Hugs and love, Crystal
What an interesting blog! I love to learn little known facts.
Like Crystal, I’ve had alligator (at a restaurant) and thought it was really good….also frog legs and raw oysters. I love, love, love fried chicken liver (my mom cooks the best!) and gizzards. YUM-O!!
The strangest things I have eaten have been squirrel and quail. I grew up in a family of hunters.
Sorry, Pam, but that stew sounds yuck-o!!!! Don’t think I could have eaten that! I would never survive on those reality shows where you have to eat strange things.
I really have never eaten anything too strange, or at least I don’t remember it!
Eww! That stew sounds awful! I guess some of the strangest I’ve eaten would be whenever we went fishing when I was a kid and my grandma would batter and cook the fins and fish eggs in cornmeal just like the fish. Those were my favorites. I haven’t eaten them in years.(boy I miss my grandparents!)
I can’t think of anything else though that would be too extreme though that I’ve eaten.
I’m getting a little queasy with this whole discussion. lol
I remember when I was a little girl visiting my grandparents and I opened the fridge and saw a whole cooked cow’s tongue on a platter. My grandma would slice it and put it on sandwiches. I declined.
Pam– The highlight of my week would be when I went across the street to *my* Sicilian grandparent’s house and watch Grandpa hand grind raw beef for meatballs. I can’t believe I did this, but I’d steal bits of the red meat as it came out of the grinder and eat it raw. I loved it, but Yuck- I don’t eat hamburger to this day now.
Great post about the trail!
Well, gee, Pam. Thanks for the recipe. I’ll be running out to get the ingredients for that.
Maybe for the family Christmas, huh?
Before I talk weird food, I have to say I loved this info. I’ve got a cattle drive with 1,000 cows in a Work In Progress and I found $25 a head as a price. So I had them make $25,000 at the end of the drive. It sounds like I got it about right. This is really useful information. Thank you for posting it.
Now, on to weird food. Well, I’ve had…there just is no delicate way to put this, and yet, I’m going to try…
Okay, I’ve been sitting here for several minutes, it’s when a bull becomes a steer, then they have a big dinner kind of…involving the results of that.
Also, in Decatur Nebraska their is a really nice steak house called The Green Lantern. Best prime rib on the planet, seriously. They’ve got proudly displayed on their sign outside
Thursday Night Turkey Nut Roast
I’ll let you figure out what that is.
Hey, it’s a big draw for them.
You can always get the salad bar if you’re a WIMP.
Can’t wait to read Untamed Cowboy. I like the idea of a cattle queen!
As for strange foods . . . I had alligator at Jazz in downtown Omaha. It was deep fried. I thought it tasted like chicken nuggets, just a bit chewier.
I’m very fond of dandelion greens. Some people think they are unusual. The leafy part at the base of a dandelion. You can go right outside and pick your own. Wash them really good and throw them in a pot with a ham hock, garlic powder, and some onion. Better than steamed spinach!
I had to laugh when you mentioned your Scicilian grandmother frying zucchinni. It brought back memories of my mother (who passed away in 2000).
My mother used to make zucchini parmasean. She didn’t use fresh from the garden zucchini, like your grandmother, but she did use store bought zucchini. She dipped it in egg and bread crumbs and fried it, then covered it with sauce and cheese and baked it in the oven(by the way, my grandparents come to the United States from Bari, Italy around 1907).
It was great. However, that’s not the most unusual food I’ve eaten.
I’d have to say the oddest thing I’ve had was bear stew, which I was tricked into eating.
Actually, it was quite tasty. But I tell you what, when I found out what it really was (a couple of years later) I really let the cook have it!
Got to thinking more about weird food when I read about Christy’s tongue experience. 🙂
We used to butcher our own meat out here on the farm–for the first 27 years of our marriage–and we’d get everything. I always liked liver okay, no big deal. My husband refuses to eat it. He says, “I made a vow that, when I owned my own home, no one would ever make me eat liver again.” And he’s kept that vow.
But the tongue…the first time I opened the package with the tongue in it….I’ve gotta tell you, it looked just exactly, completely and utterly like………..a tongue.
YIKES! I half expected it to leap out of that package and lick my face. That was NO WAY going on my table.
My mom always said, “Pickled tongue makes great sandwiches.” But one time I asked her when exactly did she ever eat pickled tongue. We never had it growing up.
She had to admit she’d just HEARD it made great sandwiches, she’d never actually had it.
I ate alligator at Buzzard Billy’s in Lincoln, Nebraska. I loved it. I’ve always been hungry to have it again. We had squirrel once, somehow my grandma got her hands on a squirrel and cooked it up…I have no idea how that happened…hope it wasn’t road kill. I skipped the squirrel, it just looked too much like a squirrel, even skinned and cooked.
I ate buffalo once at Ted’s Montana Grill.
The local bar in Decatur has an annual wild game feed and they have everything imaginable. Raccoon, cougar, bear, of course the usual game animals, deer, elk, wild turkey, rabbit, lots of fish. I think I tasted most of it.
I’m not much of a drinker, but I’ve heard it all tastes better if you’ve had a lot of beer. There’s a reason we have millions of head of cattle in pens instead of pens full of cougars, trust me.
My sister brought goat to Easter once. Enough garlic and salt and it’s okay. Still, I’m thinking beef…and maybe Kristy Kreme Donuts and Starbucks are the key to Middle-East peace. They’d calm down a lot if they knew the HOT light was going to be on at Krispy Kreme. Who’s gonna volunteer to be a suicide bomber while there is a mocha latte frappacino with your name on it.
And if I had to eat goat every day, well, jihad might not sound so bad, you know?
LOL…Mary, I had to laugh at your post about tongue. I’ve seen it before in the grocery stores, but I’ve never tasted it (nor do I ever want to).
My x-father-n-law used to eat goats head! It was literally a goats head, eyeballs and all (which, he used to eat as well). He was from Mexico, and all of his family loved it. Needless to say, it grossed me (and my X)out. Ewwww!
Good information, Pam. The only thing interesting I’ve eaten/tasted would be barbecued rattlesnake. I’ve had liver, tongue, pigs feet, all the usual things you have when you grow up on a farm that raises all your meat. One time when we were visiting relatives my uncle cooked up a rattle snake for everyone to try. I don’t remember it being bad tasting, it was just the thought of eating a snake!
Pam, isn’t it neat the things we discover when we’re researching? To many writers that part is a chore but I actually look forward to it because I can’t wait to see what tasty tidbits I stumble across. I applaud you on writing a book featuring a Cattle Queen. We sometimes overlook the women and what they contributed to the West. I haven’t read your book yet but it’s on my list. After your post today I can hardly wait!
Where I grew up had an abundance of rabbit so I’ve eaten it fried. I’ve also had buffalo during a trip to South Dakota. But the very strangest thing I’ve tried is fried rattlesnake – something that you don’t have to look hard to find here in Texas. 🙂
By the way, fried rattlesnake doesn’t taste anything like chicken. At least it doesn’t to me. I was only brave enough to try it once and that was enough, thank you very much.
I came home to all your comments, and what a delight they are! Thank you!
When I was in New Orleans at the RWA conference, I bought a can of alligator meat in gravy sauce, but kept the thing for 4 years because I never had the courage to eat it. I finally ended up giving it away as a gag gift.
Mary, Mary, Mary. You are an absolute hoot! I laughed out loud about your tongue comment. And hey, turkey nuts? They’re delicious!!
We loved going to Willie’s in Julesburg, CO, for their Rocky Mountain Oysters, back when we were in school. And South Bend, NE, has their annual Testicle Festival in June. They’re so good!
Charlene, you brought back a memory I’d forgotten about the raw hamburger! I’ve done the same thing! I remember my mother having a couple of pounds sitting on the cutting board ready for mixing. I’d go right over and pop a blob into my mouth. We thought nothing of it!
I’ve eaten a few weird things. Something more normal was Haggis. I ate it when we were in Scotland. It doesn’t taste bad at all!! Even if it looks and sounds distasteful.
When I was younger I adored animals. I had a ‘hospital’ for wounded birds (when they flew against a window). But I was also very curious about what they ate! So I’ve eaten grass (I tastes the way it smells: not at all) and catfood (it’s a little sour, but not that bad)!
Andrea, I, too, have had frog legs. My father and brothers used to go ‘gigging’ for them at night. They were very good fried. Never been a fan of chicken gizzards, tho. A little too chewy for me.
Taryn, interesting about the fish fins! I’ve *never* heard of those, and my dad was a fisherman. Weren’t they crunchy?
Kim, I love Jazz! I’ll have to try the fried alligator when I’m there next.
Okay, I’m curious. How does squirrel taste?
Carol, that goat’s head has to be the most unique. Eat eyeballs? –gag!–
Thank you, ladies! This is wa-ay fun!
I’m not very adventurous when it comes to food. So the strangest would be venison! lol
Oh yeah, they were crunchy. My family always just scaled the fish, gutted them and left the tails on them and cooked them in cornmeal breading. After it cooked the tails would just come off. I don’t really remember what it tastes like, though to my recollection it was mostly like a cornmeal chip. LOL
I did once get tricked into eating deer meat though I had sworn not to eat it. My friends got a good laugh about it. Now when I was a kid I remember watching my uncle clean turtle (or turkle as my grandma called it) and they had squirrel and stuff but I never ate any of it that I know of.
I loved your blog today. Fascinating and fun. I have eaten squid which was not at all appealing and I won’t again soon. Not too enticing but I ate tripe once as well.
Stefanie, you brave girl. Haggis? Ugh! I’ve seen grown men gag on that stuff.
Pearl, tripe is something else my Sicilian grandmother would make. I don’t recall eating any, but my mother would shudder at it.
It’s true that you learn something new every day….lol Neat post. Love the cover on your book. That’s one that says “pick me up” when you see it on the shelf. I think he’s calling out to me.
I wouldn’t not even want to taste that stew. Yuk! I was out to dinner with my relatives at a restaurant and my Uncle ordered an appetizer for us. When they brough it to the table, he wouldn’t tell me what it was. He said “taste it, it’s really good”. So I did and as I popped it into my mouth, he told me it was a Quail’s egg. I picked up my napkin and spit it right out. lol That’s another Yuk!
I’m an adventuresome eater due to Mom’s influence, LOVE snails in garlic butter-French Cafe in the Old Market, oyster stew (but not raw or muscles), buffalo burgers-meat from local HyVee; tried frog legs 2-3x, yes, taste like chicken so not worth big bucks; caviar (fish eggs) is salty, but OK; crawfish in New Orleans, like tiny lobsters. I draw the line at tongue (thought it looked like a whale with goose pimples, chose no dinner just at the THOUGHT of it; DID hear it’s good), goat’s eyeballs, gizzards, & testicles, etc. I’m visual and weak stomach so don’t watch reality shows. Glad to know what sweetbreads are. However, when I didn’t know what I was served, I enjoyed boiled beef heart and squirrel. Have an Anglo friend who enjoys Mexican menudo (tripe.)
Hope it’s not TMI to tell you I threw up on undercooked alligator (local restaurant no longer in bsns.)
Due to testimony, I’d try haggis and dandelion greens. Parents enjoy annual Game dinner, including raccoon and much that Mary named, at hometown black church so hope to try someday; My son LOVES squid and calamara rings.
Pam I love your blog it has been a joy to read all about all this. I have eaten beef liver and onions that is gross I had to eat it as a kids so when mom was not looking I feed it to the dogs so I said when I grew up I would not make it either. Plus we raised rabbits and some times we had them or should I say they had it. I took one bit and started crying that rabbit was a friend to me when I went out to feed them they played with me, why would I eat it.
As for the tongue I was being baby sat one day and the lady was making tongue I said what is that and she told me well lets just say I was sick so I got out of eating that. As for the stew I would starve to death no way would I eat that.. Keep up the get work on the books. Love them
Lucky Lou, you know, buffalo burgers ain’t half bad. Ted Turner (the entertainment mogul) owns huge sections of ranch land here in Nebraska, and he has a restaurant called Ted’s Montana Grill, the one that Mary C. mentioned. Buffalo had a bit different taste than beef, but otherwise, very good!
I grew up on liver and onions–my mom would occasionally make them. I made myself eat liver when I was pregnant because it was so rich in iron. But I haven’t had it since, and don’t miss it!
Hey!…Thanks for the nice read, keep up the interesting posts..what a nice Sunday
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