Hackers of the Wild West
Dashing guys who fired from the Colts to the right and left, drunk to pieces and arranging a riot in the saloons – such a screen image of a cowboy instilled in us from childhood. But the real picture looks different. The farm laborers of the Wild West Cowboys (“cow” – cow and “boy” – boy) are modest prairie workers – farm laborers from large American cattle producers. Their history dates back to the mid-1860s, when fighting between the North and the South ceased. Then many soldiers returned to the destroyed houses and desolate farms, and it was necessary to somehow live. They found work for rich farmers: their main duty was to manage livestock – grazing, driving, guarding, treatment, and marking. Time gradually dispels the heroic and romantic halo of the image of a cowboy, largely imposed by Westerns.
Cowboy is, first of all, a profession, dangerous and difficult, coupled with the daily routine work. It was not possible to earn a lot – up to $ 25 a month: this was often not enough to buy personal weapons and your own horse, but getting a chronic illness was very easy, given the constant overnight stays on wet land.
The most difficult thing about the cowboy profession is cattle driving: they moved their herds east to the Kansas railway stations, but given the great distances and unpredictability of the prairies, the road could take a whole year. In order to prevent the dispersal of livestock cowboys surrounded him with a ring. But the drivers drove from behind like a tactic: a herd of thousands of cows warmed the air to such an extent that it mercilessly burned their faces.
And if we take into account other “charms” of hauls, be they predatory animals or poisonous snakes, armed gangs or warlike Indians, then the picture of cowboy everyday life was not at all optimistic. The conquerors of the prairies Cowboys as they could adapt to the harsh conditions of nomadic life. In 1866, cattle farmer Charles Goodnight came up with a chakwagon (“kitchen van”), which greatly facilitated the task of overcoming long distances.
Chakvagon was a converted army vehicle with reinforced axles: food, utensils, whiskey (used mainly for disinfection), medicines and other useful stuff were loaded into it. A barrel with a two-week supply of water was attached to the side of the van, and cow dung was put on the skin stretched below with bison and was indispensable fuel in the steppe. The clothes of cowboys, tested during long hauls, were very practical and functional. The wide-brimmed felt hat not only saved from the scorching sun or rain, but also helped to inflate the fire, and in other cases served as a container for water.
We mention the scarf, which protected the face from dust, and in case of injury they were tied up with a wound or fixed a broken arm, leather chaps that protected the feet from spines and gnats, and long johns – woolen underwear that saved the shepherd during cold nights. Cowboys were good at firearms – revolvers, Colt, Winchester, but despite the stereotype, they were rarely used. The gang of robbers, wandering in search of prey, represented the greatest threat to the shepherds, but with the Indians they tried to get along: their help during the difficult journey could be very useful.