I know of four Paradise Valleys in the west. My Paradise Valley is in northern Nevada, and it’s a place where a kid really can grow up to be a cowboy (if his mama lets him, of course). Interestingly, cowboys in northern Nevada are not generally called cowboys. Instead they are called buckaroos, from the Spanish word vaquero.
Vaqueros started migrating to the Great Basin from California and northern Mexico in the mid-1800s to do herd work for both family and corporate ranches. They brought with them their own distinctive style of dress and working gear, as well as their own lexicon, which is still in use today.
Modern day buckaroos may choose to dress like any other cowboy in Wranglers, a western shirt, and a belt with a giant buckle, but many working buckaroos choose to wear the traditional buckaroo garb.
They favor flat hats, short chaps called chinks, white shirts, either a vest (often harvested from a thrift store men’s suit) or a wool sweater and a large silk scarf. They often sport a big Sam Elliot type mustache. (Gotta love a Sam Elliot anything—right?)
They use mecates (ropes made from twisted mane hair) for reins. The mecate is attached to the bit with leather pieces called slobber straps. The saddles often have high cantles (backs) and slick forks. Instead of a rope, they may have a rawhide riata (a gut line).
They also tie their horse’s tails in a unique knot to keep them out of the dirt…or maybe just because it looks cool.
Now that I’ve talked up buckaroos, I have to confess that I love cowboys, no matter what. I don’t care if they’re called buckaroos, cowpunchers, or cowhands. Just gimme a guy with boots, chaps and a cowboy hat. I’ll take care of the rest.
Do have regional cowboy trends in your area? Or are you a cowboy generalist as I am?