Jeannie Watt: Buckaroo Fashion Sense

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.

Buckaroo Wear -1

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.

Buckaroo Wear-2

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Buckaroos also have specific taste in gear. Saddles are the old fashioned kind with the high cantle and pommel.

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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.

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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.

I’m looking forward to chatting with everyone and I’ll be giving away three copies of my July Superromance Cowboy Comes Back—part of the Cowboy Country promotioncowboy-comes-back

Thanks for having me,

Jeannie Watt

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41 thoughts on “Jeannie Watt: Buckaroo Fashion Sense”

  1. Hi Jeannie! Thank you for being with us at Petticoats & Pistols. Buckaroos sure have a lot of personality. Great pictures! I like the guy in the pink shirt.

    I’ve never been to the ION region, but I’d love see it. I think of that area as dry and desolate. Is that accurate? One of these days, I’ll have to go see for myself!

  2. Hi, Jeannie

    What is the story behind the knot tying?

    I read “A Cowboy’s Redemption” I loved it!
    I am now looking for your other books.

  3. Good morning ladies!

    Victoria–the ION is dry and desolate, but it has the most amazing colors–pale blues, purples, pinks in the mountains, sage, gold and tan in the valleys. There are lots of mountains with long valleys between them. The vegetation is sage, pinion, aspen, cottonwood and grasses.

    Sherry–My best guess on the tail knot is that it started as a way to keep the horse’s tail contained on days when the buckaroo was working. Many cowboys keep their horse’s tails cut off at about hock length, so it wouldn’t get tangled and full of stickers when they work. By knotting the tail, the buckaroo can keep it long, but out of the way. Kind of like wearing a bun.

  4. Sherry–Thank you so much for reading A Cowboy’s Redemption. My new book, Cowboy Comes Back, features Libby as the heroine. I loved her so much I had to give her a story. It’s turned out to be one of my favorites. It’s the story of second chances for a man, a woman and a horse.

  5. Hi Jeannie,
    I found your post very interesting since I really had no idea what a buckeroo was. Your pictures were great and I think it’s great that they love all those colors.

  6. Jeannie, I never knew a buckaroo was different than just a cowboy, just another slang term like cowpoke or something. I guess I knew Vaquero was a Mexican cowboy.

    Thanks for an interesting post.

  7. Hello Jeannie,

    Thanks so much for the information on what a buckaroo is and what they actually wear. Loved the pictures. This was a fun post. Have a great day.

  8. Welcome to P&P, Jeannie!

    We’re delighted to have you come blog with us. And what an interesting subject! I learned some new things today. For instance, I never knew that buckaroos were different from cowboys. I just thought the two names were interchangeable. Not so. Down here in Texas our working cowboys wouldn’t be caught dead in anything remotely resembling pink. LOL

    Hope you have an enjoyable day!

  9. I forgot to say that I love the cover of your book. That alone has hooked me. Now I have no choice but to buy a copy. Wishing you lots of luck with book sales.

  10. Thanks for the information on the Buckaroo. As a
    native of Texas, my knowledge of cattle and ranching
    has rested with the Texas cowboy. You learn something new everyday, or should! I’m going to look for your books. I, too, like the colorful
    style of the buckaroo!

    Pat Cochran

  11. Hi Jeannie, great gear and the book sounds awesome. As a teenager I took part in a 4H exchange trip and stayed with a family in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley. They had Arabian horses which they showed, and the silver on their gear would knock your eyes out. We crossed the border to a tack shop in Washington state where these girls plunked down big dollars for new silver bits, brow bands, hat bands and ornamented reins. Dressed in their finest, those lovely horses – and their riders – were a sight to behold.

    Great post!

  12. Congratulations on your new super romance book it sounds great I love the cover too.
    Why did they tie the knock in the horse’s tail? Love the pictures
    Penney
    penneyw (AT) sbcglobal(DOT)net

  13. Hi Jeannie, thanks so much for all the info! I didn’t know what a buckaroo was. I just thought they were your average cowboy, but now I know the differents. How did they tie that knot in the horse’s tail without getting kicked?

    Love the cover of your books and it looks fantantic!

  14. Really interesting information about buckaroos. I had a different idea about them-always thought it was something to do with little kids that watched Roy Rogers show.
    Interesting about the knots-what is the purpose?

  15. Thanks for sharing such great info on the Buckaroos! I enjoyed reading about the details that make them them… 😀

  16. Hi Jeannie, Loved A Cowboys Redemption! The silk wild rag also doesn’t cause the neck to get scratched up, as in cotton or wool. My packers all wear silk. And there isn’t a better picture than as a cowboy walks away from you.
    Can’t wait to read your latest.
    All Great Basin cowboys are great.

  17. Thank for a wonderfully informative chat. There is a definite difference between the Buckaroo and the “standard” cowboy. One thing for sure though, they can both get the job done. Look forward to reading your new book.
    Have a great summer.

  18. I live in Oregon and have seen these guys around the eastern part of the state. Never knew that they had a special name.

  19. Hey everyone! Thanks so much for commenting. If you missed the answer to the knot question, here it is again:

    My best guess on the tail knot is that it started as a way to keep the horse’s tail contained on days when the buckaroo was working. Many cowboys keep their horse’s tails cut off at about hock length, so it wouldn’t get tangled and full of stickers when they work. By knotting the tail, the buckaroo can keep it long, but out of the way. Kind of like wearing a bun.

    Jeannie

  20. Thank you so much for sharing all of this interesting information, Jeannie. I work with special education junior high and high school students and am always looking for a topic that may interest them for research. Don’t know if this will work for them but has definately grabbed my interest! I will be saving the website to read more.

    Looking forward to reading your book.

    Connie

  21. What an interesting job!! I loved the article – it was very informative. Thanks and have a great weekend.

  22. Jeannie, I’m late to the party, but welcome to the Corral! What a fun post – thanks for all the info on the buckaroos. I had no idea they were a subculture within the group called cowboys. Thanks for the info – and for some great story ideas. 😀

  23. Mary–You’re right–there’s nothing better than silk. It feels good and it can be either warm or cool. My winter scarf is in really bad shape, and I keep tying it on when I feed.

    Estella–Lol at seeing “those guys” in the eastern part of the state. Some day you should travel over for the Jordan Valley Big Loop. Good times.

    I’m sure glad you all enjoyed the buckaroo information. I love visiting Petticoats and Pistols. Thank you ladies for inviting me!

    Jeannie

  24. Jennie–I bet those Arabs were something with all their show gear on. There’s a lot of money involved in outfitting a horse and rider for a show, but I love the finished product.

  25. Hi Jeannie!

    Wow, what a great behind the scenes look of a buckarro! The story of your book looks wonderful Jeannie! Can’t wait to read it!

  26. Why would a horse kick if you tied a knot in its tail? How the hell you gonna shoe him if you can’t touch his tail? WTF? Are there that many people removed from anything to do with horses or livestock? And who the hell would pay 700 bucks for a pair of over fringed chinks? No one I know and that would include working stiffs and clinic dinks alike. This has been a good laugh and it made me laugh hard. Good luck with the novel. But don’t overrate these sagebrush rats as most smell of whisky and get a little too wild in town and like to visit some of Northern Nevada’s finest brothels where they have VIP discounts. Adios

  27. petticoats and pistols? sounds like a fancy name for a dram house. at any rate…i am not the girlfriend of the man riding the paint horse next to me–that’s my uncle and though he would be pleased that you liked his pink wild rag and the fact that you like how he dressed better than the way i was, he would likely get growly to hear that he was called flashy…kind of along the same lines as calling someone “flamboyant”…wrong connotation, if you get my meaning…but i guess by running a site called petticoats and pistols it doesn’t really matter cause you’re not gettin’ the real deal on here 99% of the time…

    good luck with your book but like pendleton taster said, don’t overrate these guys…

  28. Thanks for the great pictures and information. I have a had a love of the Old West from my earliest childhood. My “Paw Paw” was my hero, and he love Westerns. My whole family watched Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Big Valley, and all the other great Westerns on TV. They were family shows, and we watched them together as a family.

  29. Where I’m from out here in CA (northern) and all the places I’ve worked in NV and ID, etc. most ‘buckaroos’ that I’ve worked with don’t prefer flashy gear, pink, or bright colors. On the big spreads, you’re out there for months away from town or anyone, and you don’t have the time or money to get flashy silver. We use working gear, maybe dress up to go to town, but nothing crazy. Most of the ‘buckaroos’ that you see these days, because it’s becoming popular, are stereotypes-frauds-and a lot of them go to those ranch rodeos. There’s a difference between working roos and fakeroos

  30. I suppose your giveaway is over so I won’t be able to win your book and review it. But I went to your website and see it has not been updated since 2008.
    I like what I read here. I teach Royal Rangers at church and they used to call our 1st to 2nd graders Buckaroos and they learned a lot about cowboys. Since then, they have switched to them being Ranger Kids.
    I lived in Texas for 1 year and got to go to rodeos and had a neighbor who’s husband was always in them.
    Anyway I wanted to let you know I came here today searching for your website.
    God Bless you.
    I would have ordered some of that western gear for my husband for his FCF outfits where they wear 1700s garb but not for $ 600. But anyway know I loved what I read. I love this blog.

  31. Sounds to me like P Taster and Jarrod need a drink to mellow out. Hell guys, I think you’re just bein’ grumpy and thought this was a good place to talk tough!
    I know plenty of working cowboys from all regions who understand the functional part of fancy – like a shoo fly, fringe has function too. Tooling hardens leather (I’m sure you musta heard) a smooth, neat and craftsman like bosal is nicer against the horse’s nose, a silk wild rag is warm and a well balanced bit is best. Then, long as the maker’s taking the trouble, what cowboy EVER minded a little silver on his spurs or bit?
    As to the ‘pink’ issue some guys are just secure enough in their masculitinty to wear it all the time – others? Not so much!
    Some of us might heve better things to spend it on but if a guy doesn’t have the dream of a wife or his own place, (yet?) better he spend $700 on fancy chinks than drop it in the whorehouse and forget where he left it!
    You might be happy in a hat that looks like you found it on the street an an Elko Saturday night while I might like mine a little neater!
    I always say you don’t have to be e dumb, damn redneck to be a cowboy!

  32. OH!! and Taster, I totally agree about making the knot in your horse’s tail – even that you or I could do it, long before he was broke enough to shoe – but making that perfect, buckaroo square knot? Not worth the trouble unless you think like my dad when he said (as he often did) ‘Any job worth doin’ is worth doin’ well!’

  33. The guys and ladies that wear pink are doing so to support the real men are not afraid to wear pink American Cancer Society program. Its a fairly common thing at ranch rodeos in the region to have a Cancer Society pink day….

  34. Also it’s not been my experience as a ranch and ranch rodeo photographer (http://www.buckaroocountry.com) in eastern Oregon and Northern Nevada for years now that the people who go to ranch rodeos are “fakeroos”…almost all of them are real deal working ranch people…..and anyone who isn’t “real deal” I have to admire them for their courage to try in a situation where they know they can stand out like a sore thumb but they do it anyway because they love the lifestyle so much. And a few years into it, some of these guys have gotten pretty darn good. Big loop roping for example is not for the weak hearted.

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