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I Would Have Made "The" Worst Cowboy Ever in The Early West

Updated on September 23, 2014
A real cowboy
A real cowboy

A cowboy life is no "walk in the park"

Frankly, a cowboy life is a tough life. If you have a “rough,” day, it was a good day. If you were looking for an easy, super-smooth, peaceful life in the early west, then you should have been a bartender or maybe a bounty hunter because only “real” men became cowboys. Men who snacked on cactus and dined on Gila monsters best describes these guys who helped to forge the Western United States.

Tobacco-chewing, whiskey drinking, poker-playing, and dance-hall-girl chasing manly men’s men. Those old guys who never knew how to back up from a fight or run from trouble. A look from their eyes that was sharp as a razor was all it took sometimes to shame a loud-mouth who had drank too much to be dangerous. But deep down inside, cowboys loved it.

A real cowgirl
A real cowgirl
A cowboy's best friend
A cowboy's best friend

Only a "special" man or woman can be a cowboy

A cowboy life was never an empty, dull life filled with monotonous routines that can kill the heartiest of men with sheer boredom from being “cooped-up” all day like a flock of laying hens. This explains why there were no real cowboys who sold shoes, cloth, nails and other things you would find in a general store.

Cowboys were in-love with the rocky, rough-to-follow cattle trails that spelled trouble around each bend in the road—rain, wind, and rustlers were all part of the trouble a cowboy had to face and mostly when he was dead-tired, asleep in his saddle, and worn down like an over-used horseshoe. But he knew he had to keep going if he was to live to see another pay day.

Zane Grey, famed-writer of many cowboy novels and writers like him couldn’t truly capture the life of a cowboy in words. I know that I cannot. I am not sure that even the journalistic-genius, the late Dr. Hunter S Thompson, even in his most far-over-the-edge nights, could capture the wild, brutish, life of a true cowboy. I guess that was how God intended it.

Ty Hardin starred as "Bronco," an early television cowboy
Ty Hardin starred as "Bronco," an early television cowboy

What is "the" worst thing about being a cowboy?

See results

Visual proof of some of my reasons of why I would have made "the" worst cowboy ever

A cowboy's work is always tough
A cowboy's work is always tough
Wearing sneakers and napping: two reasons why I would not have been a good cowboy
Wearing sneakers and napping: two reasons why I would not have been a good cowboy
If I were to start drinking, I might not stop
If I were to start drinking, I might not stop
I'd get in trouble for spending too much time in cafes
I'd get in trouble for spending too much time in cafes
I cannot sing cowboy or any type of song
I cannot sing cowboy or any type of song
Colt .45's are very loud
Colt .45's are very loud

Fantasy is a far cry from reality

I used to love watching Roy Rogers, “King of the cowboys,” and his girl, Dale Evans, and their loving sidekick, Gabby Hayes get in and out of trouble each week on our black and white Zenith television. I even dreamed a brief dream of longing to be just like Rogers, move out West and grow into being a cowboy.

But most dreams that are unfulfilled or realized, die in the dust of our memories, and so did my “Cowboy dream,” for I did some serious research when I became a teenager and it was with great relief that I accepted the fact that—

I Would Have Made The Worst Cowboy Ever in The Early West

And here are the reasons why:

  • Horses – do not like me. When I was a young man, my best buddy, Rick had a pony that his dad bought him. Rick wanted me to ride him. I wanted to ride him, but the only one of the three of us who didn’t want me to ride him was the pony, so he bit me on the leg as I tried to get into the saddle. Rick laughed. The pony laughed. I yelled in pain. And swore to never try that foolish stunt again.
  • Tobacco – was a big part of an early cowboy’s life. You either chewed or smoked it. And if your constitution was not forged of steel, you couldn’t handle this home-grown “maker of men.” Me included.
  • Wrinkles – in my forehead and face from riding into the harsh winds were not for me. I get cold easily. Plus I am the worst at building a campfire without a match or disposable-lighter. But some of the early cowpokes were to good at their work that they could just snap a finger and a blaze would shoot upward. Me? I would have frozen like a raw ham. No thanks.
  • Saloons and Whiskey – at the end of a long trail ride were a couple of more “makers of men,” and “weaners of the weak,” so I figured that if I couldn’t take home-grown tobacco, the home-brewed or distilled liquor would surely take my life while I stood.
  • Punching Cattle – for a living, riding with a herd with other cowboys as in CBS’ early western, “Rawhide,” looked good. Sounded good, but in reality was as tough of work as a man could get. Riding mostly day and night—fighting the elements, wolves, rustlers and fatigue. Yeah. I would have made a “Super Cowboy.” Could you detect the sarcasm?
  • Acceptance – was everything to a cowboy either on the ranch or trail. And the photos (to the right) depicts a dozing cowboy wearing sneakers, that means you are a “tender foot,” not a cowboy who swears by his boots and never called lazy as this “sleepy head,” is seen. Me? I love naps and sneakers. Both feel good. So add this to the other reasons why I would have bombed as an early cowboy.
  • Dashing Good Looks – as that of Ty Hardin, (in photos to the right), who starred in CBS’ “Bronco,” another early television western as that of “Rawhide,” taught me that “I” was not given great, carved features like Hardin, so I would have been “the” loneliest cowboy on the Chisom Trail.
  • Cafes and Restaurants – would be where I would hang-out before going out with the next cattle drive. From what I found in my research, the most-important member of any group of drovers was not the trail boss, but the cook. And the crew with the best cook always drew the best drovers. But as much as I love food, I would have missed many-a cattle drive for staying too long in the cafes that sprang-up in the early Western towns.
  • Colt .45’s – and Winchester rifles were a cowboy’s best friend besides his trusty horse. But me? I cannot stand a loud explosion, so once again, fear of explosions would have kept me from achieving my goal of being a good cowboy.
  • Singing – around a campfire with my cowboy pals would have been a great time. Even singing to keep the cattle calmed down if I were on night duty, but one thing: I cannot sing. So what could I do to be musical and still be thought of as a cowboy, whistle? Maybe a tap-dancing drover?
  • Bronc’ Busting – as well as driving cattle to the next railroad stop to sell them meant one thing: Hard work. And lots of it. I do not mind hard work if given to me in moderate doses. But the early cowboys never knew the meaning of ‘moderation.’ They had to work like a machine and never give in to exhaustion to make their mark as a good cowboy.
  • Cowgirls – to me would have been trouble. Actually more trouble than all of the “Anti-Cowboy Reasons,” reasons above. Oh, I am sure that they were nice to look at and talk to when I would be lonesome, but my luck would be that each saloon girl I struck-up a conversation with would be engaged to a guy named “Satan,” and that was his sweet, pet name give to him by his gal. And coupled with his naturally-tough physique, he was born to kill at birth.

Maybe I could have been a good hobo in the early West and depend on the cowboys who had hearts to give me an occasional piece of hard tack to keep me alive.


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    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 

      4 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      Kenneth, I loved Rawhide and the Virginian. I wasn't so keen on Gunsmoke, the hero, whose name I've forgotten, always struck me as a rather boring person. You do realise that being boring is a major character drawback here in England!

      Can you imagine the dust riding behind a herd of cattle and the smell... Words fail me.

      Right, I'm going to get on with my life immediately.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Thanks so much for your nice comment. I never thought of these notes--women go too girly, the saloon girls especially, but some of the pioneer wives just grabbed a spare Winchester and got dirty.

      You are so right about the discomfort about riding behind the herd on a cattle drive. I learned that from Rawhide, one of my all-time favorite westerns besides Gunsmoke, the latter color versions which was dubbed America's first dramatic western.

      Oh, I could go on, but I will let you live your life.

      Stay in touch with me.

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 

      4 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      When I watched those old westerns, I hated the way the women went all girly when danger threatened. You're right, though. I'm sure it was boring when it wasn't dangerous - all that riding behind a herd of cattle, uncomfortable most of the time, and did they earn much anyway? Don't worry, I'm sure 9 out of 10 men couldn't hack it as a cowboy of the Old West.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, vkwok,

      You are very nice. Thanks. I do appreciate it very much.

      May God smile upon you.

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 

      4 years ago from Hawaii

      You're not the only one who would make a bad cowboy.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      My friend, I am friends with someone who has touched greatness. Do you sense the awe in my comment? And I am NOT joking.

      I admired these guys when I was young and even as an adult.

      Thanks for being m friend. And commenting.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Of course I met Rogers, Ford and Wayne I was raised around Sedona Arizona where they shot all them movies.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      @ PAINTDRIPS . . .

      This comment is what slipped my mind in my first comment to you.

      I loved the Cisco Kid and Pancho. Their films were very clean and yet so realistic for their day.

      I still love the song, "Cisco Kid," by 70's band, WAR. I cannot sing it as well as they did, but the music is super.

      And do not beat yourself up for not wanting to be a cowgirl. I am sure that you are right where Our Maker wants you to be.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hey, Oh Me!

      Thank you so much for your input. And I loved Hop-a-Long Cassidy. He was a cool guy and always in the middle of things.

      I admit it. Cowboy and cowgirl work was tough, but as I told PAINTDRIPS, I am glad you are in my world.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Thank you kindly for the sweet comment. Honestly, I CAN see you being a female sheriff of a once-rowdy cowtown such as Dodge City. But I also respect you not wanting to do this for a job too.

      Even when I was young, I always thought that saloon girls always got treated rough and taken for granted.

      I loved your comment, PAINTDRIPS. I am proud to have you in my world.

      Stay in touch.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hello, mgt28,

      My sincere thanks to you for the nice comment. And compliment. By "Pan," did you mean prospector? I would not have hated that job. Sleep in, pan for gold when I wanted, and stop claim-jumpers from taking my gold.

      But as for shoot-out's with varmints, no thanks. The sight of blood, especially mine, makes me faint.

      Have a great night.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Dear Sheila,

      Thank you for your nice comment. I was too gullible to believe that the food was good in my favorite western: Rawhide, which I read was the FIRST dramatic western before Gunsmoke.

      But with these reasons notwithstanding, I was not cut from the same fabric as these pioneer men and women who built our country and fed millions with the beef that they drove.

      I confess. I used to want to date Dale Evans.

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Wow, you were a cowboy, eerr, or cowperson? Man, am I impressed. Did you ever meet Roy Rogers? What about Dale Evans, his girlfriend? I wish you would write a hub about how you were a cowboy. I would love it. Thanks for the nice comment.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Hmmm, It hadn't changed much by the time I was one, long enough to know it was not for me.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Every reason you gave is a reason I couldn't be a cowgirl now. When I was younger, I probably would've done it and would've enjoyed most of it.

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 

      4 years ago from Jamaica

      i said draw partner......draw! i tell yah! one way or the other i'm gonna get yah to go for that gun, yah yellow belly.....blah blah blah....

      I don't think i could survive either, too much quick death....too much cowing! give me the 21 century. Great post kenneth....rated funny

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Your title certainly caught my attention, Ken. Me too! As much as I, like most, love to read and write about the "old west" - I don't believe I would have survived long. Certainly not as a cowboy. I'd have been a store clerk or a school teacher, I fear... not the loftiest of occupations. But, I might have survived in those tasks! ;-) Thanks, again, for sharing! ;-)

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      This was great. I hit this page grumbling and ticked off because I'm having problems getting pictures to load in the workshop, for two days now. This was exactly what I needed to get my frown turned upside down. I'm wishing I was a cowboy now. I'd just shoot it or maybe rope it and drag it off a ways until it decided to behave. Back in the day, it's the cows that would have been my demise. I like most of the rest but for some reason bulls don't like me as evidenced by the one that actually rammed my grandfather's truck when I was a kid. Grandpa swore that bull had never charged anything before seeing me in the back of that truck :). I would not have lasted long back in the day. Think I would have had to own a few saloons.

    • mgt28 profile image


      4 years ago

      By the way, I always thought you were a cowboy! Pan or not. Intensions on panning aside. Ken you are a super creative writer.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      4 years ago from Fresno CA

      I don't know why, but I loved the Cisco Kid growing up. My dad thought he was the last of the great white hunters and had a John Wayne style pearl handled Colt .45 to prove it. He felt all girls should know how to handle a gun so he took us to the mountains and had each of us do target practice, then laughed when the gun knocked us in the dirt. That's quite a kick. We had horses and I could ride with the best of them and throw a pitch fork accurately enough to scare people. But I'm no cowgirl and I'm glad. That is a rough life. You forgot to mention the hands. They have the roughest hands of anyone I know. I like soft hands. I would never marry a cowboy for sure.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I don't think I would have been a good cowgirl either. My favorite cowboy show growing up was Hop-a-long Cassidy


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