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Let There Be Cowboys-Introduction

Updated on July 13, 2015

Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove

Cowboys heed the call

In the mid-1800's, the railroads came to Kansas. If a rancher could get his cattle there, a train would transport them to other parts of the nation that had once been deprived of beef. Most diets had been mostly pork, chicken, grains, and vegetables, so the railroads proved a valuable commodity. Ranchers needed men to safely transport their cattle to Kansas, and they hired the cowboys for the task. Two times a year, the cowboys rode over open ranges, rivers, and dusty trails, such as the Chisolm Trail.

The demands on cattlemen were rigorous, demanding time away from their families - if they had one. They drove cattle from dawn to dusk, and even with a cloth covering their noses, dust still seeped into their mouths and parched their throats. They were sore from riding a horse all day, and in the bitter cold of day and night, with a cold wind blowing or snowflakes whirling overhead, they had worn hides, a saddle or rock for a pillow, and a campfire for “comfort”.

Hollywood's fascination with cowboys produced stars like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Yule Brenner, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood. If one were to believe that cowboys were always the good guys and that good always overcame evil, then Hollywood did its job. Recent years have brought about a more realistic image of cowboys, starting with my favorite, Larry McMurtry. Granted, his two main protagonists were actually ex-Texas Rangers, but they became two fine cattlemen and leaders, herding and transporting cattle. Augustus McCray and Woodrow Call were tough, but they had their vulnerabilities and were prone to failures. Essentially, they were someone we could relate to and empathize with.

Cowboys get a bad rap here, but they're really pretty cool guys.

Cowboys did not become cowboys hoping that one day they would be stars on the silver screen. They were cowboys because it was their way of life, and for some, it was the only way to make a living. The latter 1800's saw a demise in the demand for cowboys, but they, like miners, loggers, frontiersmen, railroad workers, even the outlaws, forged paths that would echo through the halls of history for generations to come.

Indeed, our new generations still have cowboys. They don't have to drive cattle for thousands of miles, but they still work on ranches and drive cattle. They compete in professional rodeo circuits, participate in annual cowboy poetry contests, still pick guitars and sing, and are still a Hollywood favorite. Centuries have proven there is always a place for the guys in boots and spurs. Their place in history is set, their presence is still useful today, and their culture seems well to continue captivating into the future. So mamas, don't worry. It's okay if your babies grow up to be cowboys!

Because there are so many aspects of the cowboy culture, I would like to make a series that will cover cowboys from other countries as well as the American cowboy, (including Native American and African-American), cowgirls, rodeos, rodeo clowns, cowboy poetry, art, songs, and films.

Later, I will write a segment on a cowboy I had met a few years back at his small museum in California. He had traveled the rodeo circuit, had been a champion calf roper, opened his own museum, and rubbed shoulders with Presidents. In 1980, he was “Marshal of the Working Western” in the Pasadena (California) Rose parade, and had ridden two more times, in 1978 and 1979.

About Cowboys...

Do you think that the cattle industry would have thrived as well as it did without the work of the cowboys?

See results

Documentary: My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys with Waylon Jennings.

Sources and Recommended Reading:

"Cowboy: An album", Linda Granfield, Ticknor & Fields, New York. 1994.


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    • EsJam profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Southern California

      The cowboy culture is one of a kind, isn't it? I think that there is so much fascinating history. I'm enthralled by how they lived, really roughing it. I think sometimes people get caught up in the rodeo aspect, they overlook the roots of what made the cowboy what he is, and his place in the nation's history...Arizona was one of the states where some of the earliest vaqueros roamed!

      I very much like AZ; I've vacationed there often and always enjoyed it! I am a newbie to the desert region. I live near Edward's Air Force base. We moved here from Riverside, Ca, and prior to that, I lived in Orange county (near Disneyland), so I'm basically, not counting my long ago roots in the Ozarks of Missouri and a small town in North Carolina, I've been pretty "city-fied" - until last year, that is. Now I'm learning about more about the desert region where I live. When I get the chance to mosey around more, I'll write a hub to share. There's actually pretty interesting history 'round these parts!

    • Emese Fromm profile image

      Emese Fromm 

      3 years ago from The Desert

      Good hub, Essie! I've been a cowboy fan before moving to AZ, I still have a pair of cowgirl boots, the real deal, from when we first visited AZ. Moved a bit away from it, but still enjoy a good read about cowboys. I met one in Northern AZ a few years back, looking every bit the cowboy I always imagined (though without the typical hat). I'm looking forward to reading your whole series.

    • EsJam profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Southern California

      150 year anniversary is awesome.....spectacular, in fact! Congratulations to her family on that achievement.

      Yes, John has a good heart, for sure. It's nice to see such camaraderie on HubPages.

    • EsJam profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Southern California

      Hi Susan,

      Thank you so much. I appreciate your support and encouragement!

    • profile image

      Susan Engle 

      3 years ago

      Very interesting Es...can't wait to read some more.

    • WillStarr profile image


      3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      The farm was in Iowa. I moved to Az. in 1962. My wife's family just celebrated the 150 year anniversary of their Az. ranch.

      BTW, a big thank you to my Aussie-author friend John for his kind words!

    • EsJam profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Southern California

      You are right, WillStarr, and I appreciate you taking the time to stop by to share your farm experience! You are from AZ. One of my possible choices for moving to if I ever leave CA. I've had a few trips there and had a blast at each one. Most adventurous, I would say was canoeing through Black Canyon in 113 degrees. We stayed overnight, primitive camping; it was a good thing the water was cold! A good, quick dip really helped!

    • WillStarr profile image


      3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      As a boy, I spent a lot of time on my Uncle Dick's farm, and it was one of the last to get rural electricity so I experienced what you described in this outstanding Hub. I treasure that memory, and I also treasure the knowledge, because, like you, I know how to get by without the modern conveniences should it ever become necessary.

    • EsJam profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Southern California

      HI Jodah,

      It's good to hear from you, and thank you for your vote, I "shore do 'preciate that, pardner" :)

      You had no running water at all? We did have running water, just no water heater, so we always heated it in tea kettles and mixed it with cold for doing dishes, baths, etc. Hoo, boy. Those were the days, huh? I say that with a smile. Not sure how you felt, but I didn't appreciate it at all. Now I look back, and I do appreciate the experiences.

      Thank you for the information on Will Starr. I am definitely going to check him out. Right now. :)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Good hub Essie. I am a true cowboy fan. Love a good western movie. "Lonesome Dove" was a great series but I never read the book. I can relate to your life on the farm too. We had to do without running water, organic gardening and raising chickens etc. one Hub Page writer I recommend to you is Will Starr. He writes great western stories here. Check him out. Love the videos included here. Voted up.


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