Hey everyone, I’m Jeannie Watt and I write western romance for Harlequin Superromance, and I’m here today to talk about my favorite kind of cowboy—the buckaroo.
When most people hear the word “buckaroo” they think it’s an amusing term for a cowboy. Actually, it comes from the Spanish word for cowboy, vaquero. Buckaroos are cowboys who work the ION—Idaho, Oregon, Nevada. They are also known as Great Basin cowboys. Their cultural influences come from the early settlers in the region, many of whom were Hispanic.
Buckaroos have a very distinctive style about them. Their outfits are, without a doubt, the showiest of the working cowboys. A buckaroo will work for $700 a month, plus room and board, then go and buy a $500 silver bit. Their gear and clothing are an important part of the culture. In this blog I wanted to show off the local buckaroos, so I took my camera to the local Ranch Hand rodeo (in Winnemucca, Nevada) and stalked cowboys.
Now I should mention that I make custom cowboy gear out of hitched horsehair—a favorite type of gear for buckaroos—so I do have a legitimate reason for hanging around, taking photos of cowboy butts and the gear surrounding those butts.
I’ll start with hats. Buckaroos favor either a flat-top, wide-brim hat, such as this one, or a small-brimmed, Owyhee style hat, such as the one I’m wearing in my author photo. The lady in this photo is also wearing a wild rag, which is a silk scarf, usually 36 inches square. She is wearing a very sedate wild rag. Most buckaroos like bright colors and floral prints. You can also (just barely) see the silver concho on the wild rag. Buckaroos like to wear a lot of silver.
Here’s another buckaroo, this one dressed up for town—or the rodeo. He has his wild rag and is wearing the most amazing chinks I’ve ever seen on a buckaroo. Chinks are the knee length chaps that the buckaroos wear to protect their legs when they work. Usually they are not this colorful. A pair of chinks like this are custom made and probably cost $600-700. This buckaroo also has a mecate, which is a rope made from twisted horse hair that is tied so that part of the rope makes a round rein, and the rest is a lead rope, coiled on the saddle.. It’s pronounced meh-caw-tay in Spanish, but the buckaroos call the reins a McCarty.
As you can see from this picture, and the one above, buckaroos are not afraid of pink. He has the flat top hat and more sedate chinks than the previous guy. I love that he dresses flashier than his girlfriend. He’s also wearing an important part of buckaroo arraignment—the vest. Buckaroos haunt thrift stores looking for old suit vests to wear. At rodeos you can find vendors with racks of used vests for sale. A buckaroo likes a nice brand new Pendleton if he can afford it, but a used vest works just fine.
This is what a buckaroo looks like in the morning when he’s about to head out to do a day’s work. He’s still wearing chinks, and there is probably a wild rag under that coat, since silk is one of the warmest things a cowboy can wear around his neck (it’s cold in the ION country) but other than that, he’s left the showy stuff at home.
Buckaroos also have specific taste in gear. Saddles are the old fashioned kind with the high cantle and pommel.
They like silver on their bridles and favor custom-made silver bits. Makers are very important. Garcia is a well-known old-time brand of silver bits and spurs.
Finally, they often tie a special knot in both the wild rag and their horse’s tail that ends up looking like four little squares with the ends hanging out. It’s called, appropriately enough, the buckaroo knot. It may be hard to see the knot in the horse’s tail in this photo, but it’s there.
Now you may be surprised to know that there is a Buckaroo Hall of Fame and every year they induct two or three old time buckaroos. It’s fascinating to hear the stories of the men being honored. If you ever drive through Winnemucca, try to stop and check it out. If you can’t do that, then take a look at the webpage—some of these guys in the photo on the homepage are my neighbors. http://www.buckaroohalloffame.com/index.html There is additional information on buckaroos on the About Link at the bottom.
Thanks for having me,