Qualities of the Cowboy


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Cowboy Preacher
March 3, 2005, 09:02 PM
COWBOY QUALITIES They were never looking for trouble.
 But when trouble came, they faced it with courage.
 They were always on the side of right.
 They defended good people against bad people.
 They had high morals.
 They had good manners.
 They were honest.
 They spoke their minds and they spoke the truth, regardless of what people thought or "political correctness," which no one had ever heard of back then.
 They were a beacon of integrity in the wild, wild West.
 They were respected. When they walked into a saloon (where they usually drank only sarsaparilla), the place became quiet, and the bad guys kept their distance.
 If in a gunfight, they could outdraw anyone. If in a fist fight, they could beat up anyone.
 They always won. They always got their man. In victory, they rode off into the sunset.

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mete
March 3, 2005, 09:24 PM
CP, I just heard a discussion about the Tories in the Revolutionary War here in NY. The term COWBOYS was first used here at that time and referred to a group of Tories who were looting and burning homes of the supporters of the revolution. The term at that time meant thief !! NYC at the time was mostly made up of supporters of the British.

Bear Gulch
March 3, 2005, 10:03 PM
I have seen that posted elsewhere. Ranch & farm folk do tend to be good people. But like folks anywhere you go there are some bad ones.

mcneill
March 3, 2005, 10:34 PM
That description pretty well fit my favorite uncle (other than the gunhandling and fighting part - wouldn't know about that). He died at the age of 72 while helping a friend round up some cattle. Horse slipped in some wet grass and fell on him. We all agreed that that was the way he would have wanted to go.

One of my prized posessions is my Granddad's pocket knife which this uncle gave me because he knew I would take care of it.

Jim

Werewolf
March 3, 2005, 11:27 PM
You've done a good job of describing the movie style white hat good guy cowboy.

But real life ain't the movies and real cowboys were just regular guys tryin' to make a livin' like everyone else. There were undoubtedly a few that lived up to the original poster's ideal and a few who were the opposite.

My guess is that most fell somewhere in between the ideal and the worst - just like real folk do.

Cowboy Preacher
March 4, 2005, 12:34 AM
Maybe it is a idealized set of standards, but we should strive for the top.

theCZ
March 4, 2005, 12:59 AM
Well, I think that cowboys are about the same now as they always have been. I'd say there are about 25% that fit the popular myth of being honest, hard working, and polite. Plenty of them love the bottle, and aren't as great as we all wish they were. I'm talking real cowboys too, not those rodeo dude. I don't mean to offend, but I've spent plenty of time with genuine cowboys and can see through the myth.

Wildalaska
March 4, 2005, 01:13 AM
Ya read some histories of the Old West, the term Cowboy was synonymous with thieves, murderers and criminals

WildnottotossacowflopinthisthreadbutheyAlaska

carebear
March 4, 2005, 03:25 AM
Wasn't "Cowboys and Ponies"
It was "Horses and Men"
Wasn't "Schoolboys and Ladies"
It was "Cow Towns and Sin"
and there was blood on our leather
and tears in her eyes
We swore at the Devil
and then went for a ride.....

mustanger98
March 4, 2005, 03:49 PM
I just heard a discussion about the Tories in the Revolutionary War here in NY. The term COWBOYS was first used here at that time and referred to a group of Tories

I watched a show on the History Channel on this subject and they said the term "cowboy" actually came from Ireland with the "thief" connotation.

Ranch & farm folk do tend to be good people. But like folks anywhere you go there are some bad ones.

I know some of both here. I also recall some words to live by. I found 'em in the preface to an original hardback copy of Smoky by Will James. (I know Will James wasn't who he said he was either, but...) Anyhow, he said, and I'm quoting loosely here because I don't have it in front of me, "I've always sized up a man by the horse he rode; a good horse generally carries a good rider. I've always steered clear of the man who has no thought nor liking for his horse, as no good could ever come of the meeting."

But real life ain't the movies and real cowboys were just regular guys tryin' to make a livin' like everyone else.

Louis L'Amour observed that most western writers don't show "cowboy's" doing their type of jobs. He said he wrote them as working stock whenever possible. In my opinion, movies bring in factors most of us don't have to deal with in the same contexts as the movies portray. If you really analize it, movies start to look real silly.

Maybe it is a idealized set of standards, but we should strive for the top.

Yeah. And some people tell me I'm too honest.

Well, I think that cowboys are about the same now as they always have been. I'd say there are about 25% that fit the popular myth of being honest, hard working, and polite. Plenty of them love the bottle, and aren't as great as we all wish they were. I'm talking real cowboys too, not those rodeo dude. I don't mean to offend, but I've spent plenty of time with genuine cowboys and can see through the myth.

I know what you mean. I know some good guys and I know some real vulgarians among the "cowboy" types around here. There's a difference too between "cowboys" and "rednecks-with-horses", and we have a lot of the latter here.

Ya read some histories of the Old West, the term Cowboy was synonymous with thieves, murderers and criminals

As I said before about the "thief" connotation, but I also remember reading somewhere that real cowboys didn't coin the term for themselves. It was applied to them by everybody else, but real cowboys prefered to be referred to as "cowpunchers" or just "punchers".

Somewhere in my collection, I have a tape of Micheal Martin Murphy- "Rhymes of the Renegades". In the paper (label and all) he has some background info and comments. He said something to the effect that in popular culture, we always picture cowboys with guns, but not all carried guns and prowess with guns is not a prerequisite to the job. Also, not all cowboys were outlaws, but many outlaws had been cowboys. If they'd stuck to working stock, they wouldn't have had all the trouble they did have. I also know the cowboy's job is a lot of trouble, because if a horse or cow can find trouble, in trouble is where you'll find 'em.

theCZ
March 4, 2005, 03:56 PM
mustanger98 - Great post. My father read Smoky to me as a child, what a good story. There are still plenty of honest cowboys out here in the west, I've just been around too many locally that have no problem drinking on the job, cheating in relationships, and having morals like a pirate. However, I have had much better experiences with ranchers, but I'm a bit biased on that topic!

Bear Gulch
March 4, 2005, 04:08 PM
Not to mention Owne Wister's Virginian and, "Smile when you call me that".

I have spent a lot of time with cowboys. They are like anyother folk, except more so!

Smoke
March 4, 2005, 04:49 PM
I myself have spent a lot of time among cowboys. Hell, I was one. Cowboys is a broad term....one must specify what is a cowboy anymore. In my small pitiful vocabulary, I save the term cowboy for people that actually earn thier money raising livestock, be it their own or someone elses.

Many ranchers (The guy that owns the cows) don't like to be called cowboys. Yet many act the part.

Cowboys are also very different regionally. The gear, the manners, the code vary slightly but disticnctly as one moves about the country.

WIth all due respect to the original poster:

They were never looking for trouble....but often managed to find it anyway.
But when trouble came, they faced...unless they thought they could get away.
They were always on the side of right...sometimes the left, depends on how much juice was in the bottle.
They defended good people against bad people....unless they were the bad people.
They had high morals...when someone was looking.
They had good manners....compared to a cow.
They were honest....most of the time.
They spoke their minds and they spoke the truth, regardless of what people thought or "political correctness," which no one had ever heard of back then....and some did it because the were a******s.
They were a beacon of integrity in the wild, wild West....a west that was ficticious.
They were respected. When they walked into a saloon (where they usually drank only sarsaparilla), the place became quiet, and the bad guys kept their distance...yeah, right, maybe in the movies
If in a gunfight, they could outdraw anyone. If in a fist fight, they could beat up anyone....I've seen more cowboys get whooped, or run away likes scared little girls.
They always won. They always got their man. In victory, they rode off into the sunset....even when home was to the east....

Cowboys are like lots of folks....they have bad habits, the have ailments, the sometimes don't do right if no one is looking, they often do stuff that defies logic. Some are outright liars, con men and low lifes. Most aren't. I'm proud to have had the chance to work with a bunch of them and to call them friends.

Cowboys are put on pedestals and held up to be Gods on horseback. Difficult to live up to, many try, some succeed.

Smoke

Nitram68
March 4, 2005, 05:18 PM
Now this is a good thread!

Here's some input from me (errr, from a C/W singer):

"cowboy's ain't easy to love and they're harder to hold. They'd rather give you (that is to say, give a girl I like to think) song than diamonds or gold. Lone Star belt buckles and old faded Levi's, each night begins a new day. If you don't understand him and he don't die young, he'll probably just ride away..."

HI express
March 4, 2005, 05:23 PM
Had a good friend from Texas. Up to when he died, he had a working ranch down there. One day when his grandson came here to visit with his grandpa, we got into a discussion about cattle drives and cowboys down there. He and his grandson smiled at each other and spoke of one of their cowhands who fit some of the "good" image of a cowboy, but he was also a wanted man in other parts of the country and stayed at the bunkhouse a lot and didn't go into town much...for good cause. He didn't want to be recognized.

From time to time, we talked more of some of the "badmen" in Texas history. We spoke more of the badmen then the "good" cowboys.

A teacher that I had in high school. He taught mostly American History. He took his summer breaks to research the cowboy "mystique." After many years of going to cowtowns and learning about America's cowboys, he came to the conclusion that more men who were killed in cowtowns were laid low by the trusted Bowie knife and a goodly number were killed with a long gun rather than the pistol. And then there were some who were shot by pistol in a darkened alley or out on the range...mysteriously.

Sorry, not too many by a stand up gun fight in the middle of the street. He also said that there many more long guns owned by the men who chose to pioneer the West. More use for a long gun...hunting, longer reach, generally more accurate at open range distances, plus handguns were expensive and much harder to get. So, sorry, but that was the results of his studies. :(

El Tejon
March 4, 2005, 06:44 PM
:scrutiny: :eek:

Cowboy Preacher, maybe the rules apply to the "cowboys" of Hollywood. Real cowboys were, um, er, fell quite short of the Horse Opera versions. ;)

mbs357
March 4, 2005, 06:58 PM
I feel like a cowboy.
Already planned on getting a Stetson... >_>

mustanger98
March 4, 2005, 07:05 PM
Not to mention Owne Wister's Virginian and, "Smile when you call me that".

The Virginian was the first "western" novel I read when I was 14 years old, in 9th grade, and having to deal with fifteen two-by-twice would be bad guys. While I didn't wind up in a dual or hang anybody, the story did inspire me to greater interest in this topic.

My father read Smoky to me as a child, what a good story.

I read Will James' autobiography and then Smoky to years later in that order. The reason I got interested in Smoky was I'd seen the movie version with Fred MacMurray when I was a kid, but at that age, I know there were elements of the story I didn't really understand so I'd have to see it again to make an assessment as to which version was better.

I'd have to say Smoke's post makes real good sense.

The thing about Texas badmen- I've been reading Sheriff Jim Wilson's articles in Shooting Times for several years now and there's a lot of outlaw types in the history. Thing is, they wound up the way they did because there were decent people to stand up to them. Those decent people came from a lot of backgrounds, not just cowboys and ranchers. I wouldn't hold the frontier lawman on a pedestal either as some of them were just plain mean by nature too. Matt Dillon is fiction and Festus was smarter.

Gordy Wesen
March 4, 2005, 11:10 PM
Hers a link to Cowboy Codes:

http://www.phantomranch.net/bwestern/creeds.htm

Smoke
March 4, 2005, 11:13 PM
Gordy, those are just waaaaayyyy too wholesome.

Most cowboys I've known couldn't go three sentences without becoming profane. Maybe when women were around....but not when livestock was present.

Smoke

theCZ
March 5, 2005, 12:51 AM
Ahh, the "cowboy codes", how realistic. Nobody would doubt that my uncle is a genuine cowboy. What part of the code does it say that a genuine cowboy must show up to work at 7:30am for a day of preg-checking roaring drunk? My whole family was really impressed with that! People only believe cowboy codes until they are around actual cowboys.

Firethorn
March 5, 2005, 02:35 PM
theCZ,

I guess it's like the "Code of the Knight" type stuff. In many ways, just like the midieval knight, the cowboy has been stereotyped by TV and movies. Those knights weren't saints by any measure.

Old NFO
March 5, 2005, 04:50 PM
#4. A cowboy is kind and gentle to small children, old folks, and animals.

Obviously Gene Autrey never met up with 1800# of "ticked" off Longhorn :eek:

Got the Hat, the Buckle and the Boots- I punched cows for my uncle when I was a teen out in West Texas. He had "cowboys" and vacqueros both working for him. They were average as far as the code went- Some good, some not so good.

As for the longhorn, to this day I still don't know who had who that day- I may have had a rope on him, but he was coming back to take care of me, the horse and that rope! :what: I was hanging onto the cantle with both hands and trying to stay on the horse as it dodged the longhorn and tried not to step on the rope.

Rico567
March 5, 2005, 05:06 PM
As "Cowboy Preacher" has tried to persuade, we have ideals for a reason, and perhaps that reason is no more apparent than when a lot of people can't measure up. I know I'm lacking in certain departments- but it doesn't mean I don't acknowledge that there's a way I want to be, or that I ought to try to get there.
Thanks for the post; I'll try to remember how a Cowboy -and an American- acts when I'm in France shortly. At this point I have more interest in visiting those forever young who deploy beneath the fields of Flanders and Normandy, but we'll see how it goes with the living....

mustanger98
March 5, 2005, 06:17 PM
Old NFO, Your post reminds me of one of Buster McLaury's articles in Western Horseman. He was talking abuot this one time he was riding a young horse and they tangled with a couple of the neighbor's Diamond A bulls. :what:

Jim K
March 5, 2005, 06:42 PM
Well, the term "cowboy" originally meant what was later called "rustler". Cowboys didn't much like the term. "Cow hand" or "cowpoke" were more common, the latter coming from the job of prodding cattle into the rail cars with long sticks.

As for their saintliness and other stuff, all I can say is movie nonsense. The real cowboy was likely a drifter, a hobo who worked only long enough to earn a few dollars then move on. Many were Civil War veterans who didn't want to go home or (in the South) had no home to go back to. They were no more handsome than any other group of men, and probably less than most. They didn't own beautiful horses named "Champion" or "Trigger." In fact, they didn't own horses at all; the horses belonged to the ranch. Each morning, the wrangler put out the horses to be used that day and the cowboy took the first one off the line whether he liked it or not.

Sometimes, cowboys owned their saddles and many spent a lot of money on them, but most didn't own more than a couple of shirts, maybe two pairs of pants, and their boots. They were paid the magnificent sum of $.50 a day and got their meals if and when. They worked 12 hour days when they could, often it was 14-15 hours at a stretch. Most didn't carry guns, and very few carried Colt SAA's. (The SAA cost a month's wages; cheap .32 or .38 S&W caliber revolvers, at $2.50, were a lot more common.)

Many ranches prohibited their employees from owning or carrying any handgun, since they thought (often rightly) that anyone who carried a gun was a troublemaker. Most cowboys carried rifles on their horses, but the rifles also belonged to the ranch, not to the cowboy. The cowboy didn't wear a Stetson; like the Colt, a Stetson hat was the best, and way out of the reach of a cowboy's purse. Many wore old army hats, or caps or whatever they could find.

That clean-cut, clean-shaven cowboy, with his white Stetson, was a movie invention. The real ones were usually dirty, grubby, and damned smelly. In the cow towns one of the first places hit by the cowboy was not the saloon but the bath house (no modern connotations, please). The women and the booze could wait until the grime of the trail was washed off. No showers, they stood up in round wash tubs and someone poured warm water on them while they used the old yellow soap. Sometimes, there was even a set of clean underwear and a clean shirt in the saddle bag. Clean pants, maybe.

That underwear was usually long johns, put on in the fall and not taken off until spring. Summer underwear was often not worn, though some did order button up shorts and undershirts from the Sears or Monkey Ward catalog. I won't even speculate on what a bunkhouse smelled like.

The work was hard, dirty and demeaning. Ranch bosses and trail bosses were often also veterans, ex-officers or NCO's, and they were hard on their employees. No union, no minimum wage, no overtime pay, no retirement plan. No equal employment opportunities for women, although quite a few cowboys were black and race baiting was normal and accepted by both sides. Any woman around a ranch was probably the wife or daughter of the ranch owner and any cowboy who looked at her wrong could count himself lucky to be run off the place. If the food was bad, the cowboy could quit or shoot the cook, the latter action being discouraged, as cooks were even harder to get than cowboys.

And damn sure no air conditioned trucks or heated buildings. Bunkhouses had a fireplace, or more likely an old round stove, stinking of the tobacco juice that was spit at it. If the cowboy was "riding herd", he slept where and when he could.

The years of the cowboy were not really long. From roughly 1865 to 1885, the ranchers drove their cattle to the market towns. After that, the railroads had come to the cattle area and the days of long cattle drives ended.

When movies were first made, many people involved still remembered the old days, and those early silent movies tend to take a realistic look at the West. But as the real thing faded in memory and the dime novel ideas took over, the cowboy suffered his worst humiliation. He was cleaned up, scrubbed, shaven, dressed in fancy duds with rhinestones and alligator boots, given a pearl handled six-gun and a white Stetson, and made into an Easterner's idea of a glamorous cowboy.

Then came the likes of William Boyd, doing a scrubbed up version of Hopalong Cassidy (read the books sometime), followed by Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and inevitably, John Wayne. Even that hero of the liberal left, Henry Fonda, played his share of "cowboy" roles. Any resemblance to the real thing was purely coincidental.

Sure, stuff like that "cowboy's code" is fine, and I applaud the sentiments. But anyone who confuses that idealism with the real cowboy is rather misguided, to say the least.

Jim

Cowboy Preacher
March 5, 2005, 07:20 PM
The "code of the cowboy" is a set of ideals to try and live by. They could be the code of the plummer or code of the hobo for all I care, but the idea's set down in them are what matters. All that being said these are the ten that matter:

TEN COMMANDMENTS
King James Version
Exodus 20:1-17
1. And God spake all these words, saying,
2. I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6. And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10. But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
13. Thou shalt not kill.
14. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15. Thou shalt not steal.
16. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.


Matthew 7:12 (King James Version)

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

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