Who is a cowboy
If you ask the first comer “Who is a cowboy?”, Then in 99% of 100 you will hear a very short and firm answer: “A tough guy riding a horse, wearing a hat and a revolver.” Those who answer in this way will be partly right, since it is precisely this image, fanned by a halo of romance, that for a century we have been seeing on cinema screens, book pages and colorful advertising posters. Dressed up with a needle, an unflappable hero with a pair of colts, a regular at drinking companions and a fierce participant in dizzying chases and shootings, these are typical examples of the “tough guy” we see in most films about the Wild West. But was the cowboy’s life really easy and easy? To understand this issue, you should take a short excursion to the United States of the XIX century – the era of the dawn of American cowboys.
The first immigrants from Europe arrived in North America in the 17th century and remained on the Atlantic coast for more than a hundred years, but by the beginning of the 19th century, the United States began to rapidly move to the West. By 1820, the border passed along the Mis-Sisipi River, Texas was annexed 25 years later, and by 1853 (not counting Alaska), North America already occupied the territory that still belongs to the United States.
Thousands of Americans began to migrate to the West, hoping to find their happiness in the Great Plains. Researchers of new lands, hunters, farmers and cattle breeders, gold miners and simply adventurers, on horseback and in wagons, traveled along the three Great Trails leading west from St. Louis, Natchez and Fort Smith.
The era of cowboys began in 1865, when after the end of the war between the North and the South, it was necessary to drive huge herds of feral bulls, mainly in Texas, into hijacking and lasted about 20 years.
The word “cowboy” in the literal translation means “cow guy”, i.e. “A man with cows”, a horse shepherd. Cowboys were not only men, but also women “cowgirl” (cowgirl). As a rule, these were the widowed wives of cattle breeders, left without means of subsistence and forced to earn a living in hard and dangerous work.
Also, contrary to popular belief, which was formed under the influence of Hollywood films, cowboys were not only white English-speaking Americans, but also immigrants from Africa (for example, famous for their art, No Love and John Whar), and the mainland native inhabitants were Indians and Mexicans. In the professional slang of cowboys, Spanish words have been preserved to this day, denoting one or another concept: lariat (lasso), bronco (wilderness, unrootted horse), etc. Mexican cowboys called themselves the Spanish word “vaquero” (vakero – shepherd), Texas cowboys used this word, but pronounced it somewhat differently – “buckaroo” (baker). Other names for cowboys in American English include the words cowpoke, cowhand, cowherd and cowpancher, but the essence remains the same – “cattle driver”.
The cowboys’ daily work was dangerous, hard, and far less romantic than what was shown in the films. Cowboys drove herds from cattle-breeding areas to the nearest railway station. All of them were excellent riders and trackers, could guess the weather changes, find watering places and shelters for cattle by barely noticeable signs, skillfully controlled with weapons and a lasso. A team of ten guys managed with a herd of 2-3 thousand goals. Long hauls along vast uninhabited plains were dangerous and not easy, but the unwritten etiquette of the West was not only complaints about the hardships and deprivations of the way, but even did not recognize any talk about it.
For 4 months of hauls, cowboys covered 2 thousand kilometers. But not all often returned back. Threat from cattle stealers and Indians, wild animals, rattlesnakes from which a person died in less than an hour, injuries resulting from an unsuccessful fall from a horse or an attack by an angry bull, hurricanes, steppe fires, stampida (stampede scared by a shot or scream cattle) – this is not a complete list of the obstacles and dangers that awaited the cowboys on the trail.
At night, in the parking lots, cowboys circled the herd, whistling or humming softly, so as not to frighten the cattle with their approach. They invented the words for these songs themselves. So cowboy songs, cowboy poetry were born. Among the cowboys were their poets, artists, writers and composers. The famous writer O Henry, the famous artist Charles Russell worked for some time as cowboys, which was clearly reflected in their work.
The cowboy’s costume consisted of simple but very practical wardrobe items: lightweight, comfortable boots, always with a narrow cape and a small heel (so that the foot could freely enter the stirrup, but not slip too deep), a wide-brimmed felt hat that protects the head and face from the scorching sun , strong jeans and leather caps worn over jeans to protect the rider’s legs from prickly chaparral branches and horse bites, a bandana – a scarf tied around the neck and having many everyday uses – all this can serve.