In my last post we took a peek into my heroine’s carpetbag, giving us a view of Lily’s attire. Last week I received the cover for THE GUNSLINGER’S UNTAMED BRIDE, and I was thrilled to see Lily in the background wearing a fabulous fashionable dress of her era. Juniper is looking deliciously dangerous, his Stetson tugged low on his brow, hands hovering above his revolvers…his range coat whipping in the wind–which hopefully isn’t too chilling, as he didn’t have time to pull on his shirt.
I thought I’d take a look at the guys this time around. Namely of the Cowboy variety. While Juniper Barns is an ex-gunfighter in THE GUNSLINGER’S UNTAMED BRIDE, he’s also an ex-cowpuncher/cowpoke. I read somewhere that these terms came into use in the stockyards where cowboys used poles to prod (punch/poke) cattle into the appropriate pen and up the ramps of loading chutes.
When I think of cowboys, I automatically think wide-brimmed hats, range coats and cowboy boots! In the book I’m currently writing (third in my WILD series) Garret Daines is a cowboy to the root of his soul. Raised on the cattle trail, he’s finally owner of his own cattle ranch–which he’ll have to fight to keep. His cowboy attire isn’t just hunky…it’s necessity, designed for his life in the saddle, and as much a part of his job as his horse and trusty cowdog. Garret’s dog is a fun addition in this book. Boots was a Christmas gift in the first WILD book, and saves Garret’s life in his own book.
Here’s some fun facts on rugged Cowboy duds, listed head-to-toe, and how they protect and assist him:
Cowboy Hat – a cowboy’s trademark, and usually made of high quality, durable felt. The wide brim shaded his eyes and protected his face and neck from the sun, as well as tree branches. In the rain, his hat acted as a mini umbrella and kept him warm–and could also be used to dunk into a watering hole for a drink.
Bandana – or as Lily calls it, “a multi-purpose tool”, provided extra sun protection and was also used as a dust mask while driving herd. Juniper found his handy for tying up an unruly woman, and then as a useful bandage after her retaliation.
Long Johns – while not the sexiest of his attire, these one-piece suits were usually made of red wool and served an essential purpose. They kept him warm in winter, and in the summer, they also kept him cool. The wool would absorb his sweat, acting as a coolant, and preventing his shirt from rotting. Juniper likely could have benefited from a pair, as his shirt seems to have turned to dust 🙂
Shirt – long sleeved with a collar, even in the summer, again to provide protection from the sun, thorns, branches, and steers.
Gloves – A cowboy needed a pair of buckskin gloves to prevent rope burns.
Pants – My cowboys tend to like denim britches, though wool was the most common. Levi’s were available in the 1800’s and worn by some cowboys, but they began mainly as mining attire. Suspenders were also used to hold up his britches. Belts and decorative belt buckles didn’t gain popularity until the 1900’s.
Chaps – a sexy addition to any cowboy, or cowgirl. Chaps protected pants and legs from thorny scrub, onrey steers, and biting horses. They kept a cowboy dry in the rain and worked as a an anchor to hold him in the saddle of a bucking horse. Chaps come in a few varieties, and I’ve used different styles in my books. In MUSTANG WILD, Skylar wears armitas chaps, which are fringed on the side, ankle length and held in place by the buckle above the posterior and three straps that wrap around the backs of her legs. In MAVERICK WILD Chance wears batwing chaps, they go clear to his boots, and flair wide down the leg and at the bottom, flapping out when he walks across the scene. In the third WILD book, Garret is ranging during a Wyoming winter, and he wears woolie chaps, made of fluffy buffalo hide–an extra layer of warmth. These fury chaps were also made from shaggy sheep wool.
Cowboy Boots – unlike the verse of a certain song, a cowboy’s boots were NOT made for walking. It’s been said that a cowboy would try to do just about anything from a saddle, and for a good reason, his boots are made for riding. The pointed toes and wedged heels didn’t make for comfortable long-distance treks afoot, but they worked great for slipping into stirrups, and the tall shafts protected them from snake bites, thorns and horns.
Spurs – On a large ranch, cutting horses (used to herd and sort/cut cattle) were rarely groomed which resulted in thick, matted horsehide. Spurs were not meant to hurt the horses, but to act as a prod through densely matted horsehair. In a lot of the old west movies, spurs jingle…but that wasn’t a necessity–jinglebobs were added decorations, as were silver conches on a the spur straps. The styles of spurs are endless.
Saddle – as much a part of a cowboy’s attire as his chaps. While a cowboy rarely owned the horse he rode, he did own his saddle. Spending up to fifteen hours a day on his horse, a good saddle was essential to his lifestyle, and could last up to thirty years of wear and tear.
Last but not least, his gun belt. Most cowboys were packing, wearing a low riding holster which hung loosly at the hip. Riding through rough country posed many dangers…coyotes, cougars, bears, and cattle rustlers.
Put that all together, and you’ve got a rugged and ready cattle wrangler.
So…what are the first images that come to mind when YOU think of a cowboy???