The Bunkhouse

MarinThomasAuthorPhoto2014jpgHello, Marin Thomas here.  I’m thrilled to be a guest blogger again at Petticoats and Pistols!  Before I start gabbing about the history of the bunkhouse, I want to let readers know that I’m offering a giveaway.  If you leave a comment on this blog, your name will be entered into a drawing to win a Kindle copy or a signed paperback of A Cowboy Of Her Own.  If you’ve already read the book, no worries—I’ll send you a Kindle or paperback of A Rodeo Man’s Promise—this book introduces you to the characters in my upcoming series for Harlequin American Romance…Cowboys of the Rio Grande.  

The Bunkhouse

The Bunkhouse, often referred to as the Dive, the Shack, the Doghouse, the Dump, the Dicehouse or Ram Pasture, is a symbol of the Old West and has been glamorized in romance novels for decades.  But the truth about this western icon is that bunkhouses were not very pleasant to live in.


Cowboy pay on most ranches ranged from from the 1870s to the turn of the century.  The quality of a ranch’s bunkhouse and chuck wagon grub often determined how long a cowboy remained on a particular spread.  Cowboys did all the dirty, dangerous work that made millionaires of cattle kings.  They worked at a time when there were no unions, worker’s comp, safety regulations, pension plans, or health insurance.  There was no mandatory retirement age so many cowboys worked until they died.


When cowboys weren’t riding the trail, the bunkhouse became their home.  The size depended on the wealth of the rancher.  Most were small with several beds or cots crammed inside.  A woodstove provided heat and if space allowed there would be a table and chairs, where the hands could play cards. After supper the cowboys might swap tales, play dice or practical jokes on one another.


An outhouse was usually nearby but not the most pleasant of places to visit. The bunkhouse was cold in the winter and stiflingly hot in the summer and there was no shortage of vermin who took up residence inside with the cowboys.  Since most cowboys didn’t bathe during the winter months they got used to lice in their beds and on their heads—not to mention the foul odor of unwashed bodies.

This month the final book in my Cash Brothers series released (A Cowboy of Her Own) and throughout all six books I’ve included a scene that takes place in the “bunkhouse” on the Cash family pecan farm.

This modern day bunkhouse was constructed when the Cash brothers’ sister, Dixie Cash (A Cowboy’s Duty) married and claimed the farmhouse for her and her husband.  All six of her bachelor brothers moved into the bunkhouse, which was a large aluminum Tuff shed with indoor plumbing.


Willie Nelson Cash (Her Secret Cowboy) works in construction and spearheaded the project.  The brothers decorated the bunkhouse with a huge plasma TV, which Conway Twitty’s twins broke (Twins Under The Christmas Tree).  The brothers hung rodeo posters above the beds that lined the walls and ate their meals at a picnic table, which became the scene of a family Thanksgiving dinner in (The Cowboy Next Door).  One by one, the Cash Brothers married off, leaving fewer and fewer brothers, living in the bunkhouse until only Porter Wagoner remained (A Cowboy Of Her Own).

ACowboyofHerOwnMedHow many of you have seen the inside a real bunkhouse before? Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of A Cowboy of Her Own or A Rodeo Man’s promise! (Youtube link to A Cowboy Of Her Own book trailer)


Marin Thomas Bio

I write women’s fiction novels for Penguin/NAL Trade and series romance for Harlequin American Romance.  And I can’t explain any better than this why I love writing western romances…  “The image of the West and the romance of the West are not going to die. Because it’s the very heart of America. Not only the image of a person on horseback working cattle. But the set of values that it represents. Things like individualism, independence, and freedom. And honesty, integrity. The work ethic. Dedication to your family, and conviction about your belief in God. And practicing common decency and respect for your fellow man every day you live.” ~Red Steagall

My husband and I are recent empty-nesters and live in Texas, where cowboys, pickups and country music provide plenty of inspiration for my western books.  Be on the lookout in 2015 for my newest Harlequin series, Cowboys of the Rio Grande.  The first book in the series, A Cowboy’s Redemption, releases in June.  If you’d like to keep up to date on both my women’s fiction novels and my Harlequin romances please sign up for my Newsletter.

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41 thoughts on “The Bunkhouse”

  1. Hello Marin. I love westerns. Mostly what I read for many years and tho I read other geners now you still can’t beat a good western. About the Bunkhouse, When I married there were 6 boys in my husbands family my husband visited his folks and had to sleep in the bunkhouse where the boys slept. That was quite an experience. But the house was small so the boys had the bunkhouse. There were a couple of broken windows from the roudy gang.LOL But I learned to love that dear family who are all gone now. My mother-in-law loved her daughter’s in law for she had 7 boys and no girls. I loved your post and would love to win your western book. Thanks for the chance. If so, I would love a print book.
    Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <

  2. Hi Marin, I guess the closest I have ever been to a ‘bunkhouse’ was when I went to a church retreat over Thanksgiving in 1969. The retreat was held in a huge cabin in the mountains and it had two huge ‘bunk’ rooms on the bottom floor. One for the men and the other for the women. There were about 12 bunk beds in each room. I remember that weekend vividly…I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour that weekend.

    I would love to be entered into your giveaway.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

    • Hi Cindy–thanks for leaving a comment! A lot of kids’ camps use the bunkhouse style and I fondly remember my week stay at a camp when I was young–six bunks to the little cabin, wood floors and stifling hot! Like you, I left with good memories 🙂

  3. I’ve never been in a bunkhouse before but can only imagine the conditions they had to endure. I enjoyed looking at all the pictures history is very fascinating !

    • Hi Jenny–thanks for commenting on the blog! Glad you enjoyed the photos–I love history, it was my favorite subject in school and I minored in it in college. Enjoy your weekend!

  4. This is interesting. I can’t imagine even being inside one of the bunkhouses of the past. Since the only farm life I get is through books, I can’t say I have ever seen one in person.

    • Hi Janie-thanks for stopping by the blog! I grew up a small town girl in WI but not on a farm and the first chance I had to see rural life up close was when our fourth grade class went on a field trip to a dairy farm 🙂 The wonder of books is that they sweep you away to places you might never get to see!

  5. i really enjoy when you share pieces of the western past. Photos and the facts and the stories, i for one appreciate all the time and effort you put in. Thank you from a Yorkshire girl.x

    • LOL, Linda! I love history so I tend to get caught up in things when I do the research. But that’s okay, I learn something new when I do these guest posts, too 🙂 Enjoy your weekend!

  6. I have always been interested in ranches and the bunkhouses. I can only imagine the shenanigans and mayhem that went on inside! I have never seen one myself, though.

    • Hi Susan, thanks for stopping by the blog! I bet it was toughest on the youngest cowboy in the bunkhouse–he probably went through some sort of “Frat hazing” when he signed on with the ranch 🙂

    • Hi Anon100–thanks for stopping by the blog today! I love giveaways and do several a month–it’s a great way to give readers a chance to try one of my books if they haven’t already done so. Enjoy your weekend!

  7. I have never been inside of one… just through the words and description from authors in their books. Thanks for sharing your post today!

    • Hi Colleen, thanks for stopping by the blog. In my next life I’d like to own a ranch with a bunkhouse and real cowboys working the cattle 🙂 I’d even like to install an outhouse with real plumbing in the back yard!

  8. The only bunk houses that I’ve seen have been on TV and probably that’s as close as I want to get lol. I do like hearing about the real thing though.

    • Hi Catslady, thanks for stopping by the blog! I’m sure woman steered clear of bunkhouses back in the day like everything else in the Old West we romanticize it in our books 🙂

  9. Hi Marin! Welcome back to the Junction where we always welcome anything about cowboys. LOL We’re glad to have visit and share little tidbits of interesting subjects. I find it astonishing that the cowboys in the 1800s worked for such little pay. At $25 a month that would average about 80 cents a day. Not much for all they did and their days were about 14 hours long. None of this going to work at 8 am and getting off at 5 pm. Oh no, they worked until they dropped. Love the image of the modern day bunkhouse. Very nice. Things have definitely improved.

    Congratulations on the new book!! Yay! The cover is awesome. Can’t beat putting a cowboy front and center.

    Wishing you tons of success!

    • Hi Linda–thanks for the warm wishes and inviting me back to blog–I love Petticoats and Pistols! You’re right about those poor cowboys working for pennies a day and to think most of them worked until they died in the saddle. Hope you have a great weekend!

  10. I went on a vacation at a dude ranch in Colorado. We took a tour of the facilities and that included the bunk house. Typical man’s habitat.

    • LOL, Joye! I equate bunkhouses with frat houses except when they had parties there weren’t any woman around to join in the fun, which was probably the reason they resorted fist-fights all the time. Thanks for stopping by the blog!

  11. I will have to say I have never seen the inside of a Bunk house other then in books, I would love to sometime though. I love your books so thanks for the chance to win one and for sharing a great post.

    • Hi Deanna, thanks for leaving a comment on the blog! I lived in Colorado for two years way back when and wow, what a beautiful place to live. I still miss the mountains. Have a great weekend 🙂

  12. Popping in to say hi to all the fillies and a big hello to Marin!

    Marin – it’s always nice to learn more about the Cash brothers – and sister – and to read your history tidbits.

    I’ve been in a “bunkhouse” on a ranch before, although it only held three bunks and the cowboys were out on the ranch at the time, so it wasn’t as exciting as it could have been. 😉

    • LOL, Barbara! Now you have to share where this ranch was and why you were in the bunkhouse 🙂 There’s a story in there somewhere, lol! Thanks for dropping by the blog and enjoy your weekend 🙂

  13. Hi Marin,

    Nope,I’ve never even seen a real by bunkhouse. Lol I couldn’t even imagine living and working in those conditions back then. But you have to do what you have to do.

    I like learning about stuff like this. Thanks for the insight into the past. 🙂

  14. I think many of us idealize the cowboy and the West. Red Steagall’s description of the cowboy was right on as far as their character is concerned. The reality of their life was not as pretty. It was and is hard, dirty, and often exhausting work. Not pretty, but they sure do clean up well.

    I have seen bunkhouses. One was at a historic ranch. Cleaned up for show, it didn’t look all that bad. But, it was small and after a few weeks crowded with unwashed bodies (winter or summer) it would probably not be pleasant.

    Thank you for the interesting post. Best of luck with the new series. I am sure it will be good. Too bad I can’t read it before heading to that area. At least I will be familiar with the area when the books do come out.

    • Hi Patricia–thanks for stopping by the blog. I’ve seen a real bunkhouse, too but like you it was all clean and neat and didn’t have any unwashed cowboys sitting around it 🙂
      Hope you’re out enjoying your Saturday!

  15. Summers I went to a church camp where we slept in bunkhouse type buildings. I am sure that they were much nicer than what the old cowboys used!

    Thank you so much for sharing a bit of history and for offering your books! Looking forward to reading one of them soon.

  16. The bunkhouse photos are great. They remind me of my college days in West Texas although I was never inside of a bunkhouse. I love the West and love Western stories. The people in those areas are super friendly.

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