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Cowboy Project

History Project on Cowboys and the lifestyles they led.
by

Benjamin Shi

on 7 November 2012

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Transcript of Cowboy Project

Cowboys By Milan T, Farrukh C and Ben S. The hat, also known as a stetson, was usually made of felt or a similar material. The rim protected the wearer from sun light and to keep him cool. Additionally, it could be used as an umbrella if it was raining. Most cowboys wore a bandana. It could be used as a handkerchief or a mask in sand storms. It also helped to protect the wearer from the dust if he was following his Longhorn cattle or if he was robbing a bank! The saddle was very sacred to cowboys. This is because it was original as after years of use the saddles created contours to fit the shape of the rider. The chaps were made out of leather of mostly bear, goat or sheep. They were used to protect the driver from hurting themselves when they fell or from stinging nettles. All cowboys took a lasso with them. It was used for tying horses, pulling something behind them, etc and also for the famous movie move, throwing a lasso on a thief and catching them. Cowboys wore high heeled boots. This helped them to make long journeys more comfortable. The Cowboy Year During Spring, the cowboys started rounding up their cows. What they also did was went bog-riding to save mired cows, or cows which were stuck in the mud as lots of them had got themselves stuck in the swamps that appeared after Winter.Rounding up was the second busiest time of the year. It was when the Cowboys gathered up all their cows and prepared them for traveling to cow towns such as Abilene or Dodge. This was also the time where the Cowboys branded the young calves and separated them from the older cows so that they can grow and mature, whilst the already mature cows were made ready to be sold to the East. The Winter was very quiet between the cowboys. They had to patrol the grazing areas and ensure that their cattle didn't have trouble. They would set up fences around the area and looked out for bears and wolves and other animals that might harm the cattle. The difficulty was that often they would have to live in tents when it was snowing outside. When the snow melted, the cowboys would make sure that no cattle was stuck in mud or caught in streams. And most of all, they had to make sure that none of their precious cattle were taken away. Summer, or during the end of spring was when the Cowboys decided to go onto their trial drive. The long drive took around 2 months initially, but when ranches were set up, the time was cut down to around 35 days. The long drive involves taking the cattle to the already mentioned cities of Abilene and Dodge, where they would be taken to the East by railway. Usually, Cowboys took around 2 000-3 000 cattle to the cow towns, sometimes, it would be higher or lower. The largest recorded number of cattle taken was around 15000. Tuesday 21st July 1871,
Dear Diary,
I’m really excited today. It’s my first long drive and I can’t wait. It’s just 15 minutes to go until we all head off for the Chisholm Trail. I’ve got good old Jesse all saddled up and ready to go. We’re going to drive 3,000 head of cattle across the Red River and to the town of Abilene. It’ll be a challenge… but a good ’un at that and there aint’ nothin’ me and my Jesse can’t do. It’ll take at least 36 days…but I’ll get my pay at the end, so it’ll be worth it.
We’re going in the summer this year because the rancher’s said that the prices are higher at the moment.
I would have been assigned as a Wrangler but Boss said I had more potential than the others. So my role is to be a “Drag Man”, although I’m not sure what that means but I bet it’ll be awesome.
Now, I better go get saddled up and ready to go before my boss finds me, cuz’ I’d get in trouble and we wouldn’t want that now would we?
So sit tight and don’t worry about me my friend and before you know it, we’ll be sippin’ champagne in a pub with our feet up. Ha-ha. Thursday 30th July 1871,
Dear Diary,
I feel exhausted. My hands are raw and bleeding and my legs are numb from riding all day long. I feel as if I could just melt into the ground. It’s an effort just to move my pen, the ink flowing seamlessly across the page; entrancing.
It was a hard day; it always is. But today, even more so, as we tried to pass the Red River, on the Chisholm trail.
Now my friend, you might be wandering, what’s so hard about that?
Well, I’ll tell you what.
So here’s how it went: I woke up at 4 O’clock to the sound of birds chirping happily and as I pulled back the flap to my tent, the first innocent rays of the sun showered me with warmth; a rare feeling as it spread through my body. I let it fill me with hope and determination; ready for the day ahead with an unusual enthusiasm. Now, you might think, well, that’s sounds like a great day but oh no.
As I stood up, the all too familiar feeling of pain spread through my entire body; driving away the sanctuary of warmth. I felt like hell. It’s what I’ve felt like every morning and night for the last 9 days. I thought this would be fun but I guess I was too naive to see it right before my eyes. It was all so clear. How could I have been so stupid? I admit I wanted to drive 3,000 head of cattle but not whilst riding behind with the constant hail of dust from the herd. At times I was practically blind. I couldn’t see anything ahead of me.
I’m starting to regret my inexperienced decision about this. I wish I could go back in time and change it all but I can’t, can I? I’ll just have to endure this incessant torture.
After a while, though, I got used to it. It became almost like a numbing pain.
Oh and did I forget to mention the storm? Yeah, there was a nasty storm overhead, which I didn’t like one little bit. The rain fell like a waterfall and bit through my clothes, making them wet and heavy.
Soon after that, we came to a sudden and unexpected halt. Ahead of us stretched the Red River. Its velvet cover a deceptive front, inviting us to our deaths. Any knowledgeable cowboy would know that it was impassable. The water was too high and the banks flooded. It would take at least another 2 weeks for the water to lower to allow us to pass. Time we didn’t have.
I pulled down my red bandana and was greeted by a wave of fresh damp air. I took a deep breath and waited, with the rest of the men, for the boss’s orders.
“Get up, you lazy boys. We’ve got work to do” Boss had said to the confusion of every cowboy.
“What do you mean Boss?” I had asked him naively.
“We’re building a bridge, men! Now get up!” he’d shouted, rather abusively to my liking. I didn’t half-like the man but he was the boss, right?
So I got up and reluctantly followed the man like everyone else, as he set out instructions. Sunday 9th August 1871,
Dear Diary,
Every day is getting hotter and harder. I wake up with a bleak outlook. It’s all the same, day after day, night after night and week after week. I’m lost and wondering what I’m doing here, with all these strangers. What was I thinking?
Soon after we’d built the bridge and crossed the flooded waters and when the storm was still at large, a lightning bolt struck the barren landscape. The sound was like a gunshot to the cattle. They all ran off in a great cloud of dust, leaving behind nothing but the endless trails of hoof-prints.
And what did we do? We ran after them of course. There was no way in hell we were gonna’ let ‘em get away that easily. So boss told every one of us to ride like the very devil was on our tails.
After an hour of non-stop, full-pace riding every Texas Longhorn had been driven into a circle. Every cowboy lay gasping for breath on his saddle. We’d rounded’em up all nice and safe into a circle. We were all rapturous, all of us except for guess who? Well, Boss of course! He was so mad; you could die from looking into his eyes. Well, almost.
“We’ve lost a lot of money boys. Look at them all. They’ve gone week and thin. It’s probably gonna cost us £500. Damn the bloody weather. Curse you storm.” He’d said and no one had got in his way as he stormed off. Monday 24th August 1871.
Dear Diary,
My patience is wearing thin. The same desert-land stretches forever in every direction; seemingly endless. It’s like we’re not moving at all. The storms gone and the sight off the moving cattle is the only thing that interrupts the uniform days and frozen time and keeps us from going insane. Everywhere I look, all I see is sand, sand and more sand.
Although Boss has said that we’re nearly there. I don’t really care. All I wanna do is fall to the floor and sleep and sleep forever.
Suddenly I had been shaken out of my day-dream by Ross.
“What do you think you’re doing” he’d hissed into my ear “keep an eye on where you’re going or we’ll both get copped for this.”
After that I had learned my lesson; always stay awake and sharp. That was hard to do when you were riding horses, keeping watch or eating at any given time with only a couple of hours of sleep every night in the chilly air. Friday 28th August 1871,
Dear Diary,
Oh my god. I can’t begin to tell you how ecstatic I am. At mid-afternoon, when the sun was at its Zenith, I could see the first glimpses of anything different from the monotonous consistency of dead land, in weeks.
As we got closer, the specks became buildings and people and, most relieving of all, life. Everywhere you looked, you saw something happening. Whether it was cowboys bartering for higher prices for their cattle, drunken businessmen shouting in pubs or the butchering of Texas Longhorns in butchers shops.
Everyone felt overjoyed that they’d reached their destination, Abilene; not a single cowboy wasn’t happy.
As the cattle were driven for the last time into a holding pen, the men, half-dead on their feet, strode confidently towards the bar.
I took a seat nearest the door and ordered a bottle of the finest champagne. I’d only just been paid and I wasn’t going to lay back on the spending. I watched, with anticipated thirst, as the cork flew out the window and the next thing I saw was champagne spilling down my shirt. I put my aching legs up onto the wooden table and downed half the bottle in one. My throat burnt like fire, but oh heck, I was alive and well, alive well my friend. Ha-ha. What did I tell you huh? You never believed me did you? Well, I proved you mighty wrong didn’t I. Ha-ha
Later on, as I sat watching the people of the town go about their daily business, Ross came and sat down opposite me. Since our little introduction a while ago, we’d become best friends.
So as the sun set in the west and every man had, some more than, drunk his share, the gambling and fighting began.
I and Ross left without a sound, not wanting to disturb the chaotic peace of the pub. They all looked so peaceful, well at least the ones that weren’t unconscious.
As the night wore on, we walked off into the distance, leaving all our troubles behind. Conclusion People often describe the Cowboys' life as one with excitement and adventure. I do not fully agree with such a thing because a Cowboys' job was nothing adventurous or exciting as such. To be a cowboy, is to have a job, and that job is to continuously move cattle to cow towns repeatedly every year. The Cowboys are payed as little as $25 for their work and do not get anything extra for crossing through dangerous and treacherous paths in order to get to the Cow towns such as Abilene from Texas. The image of a Cowboy has been romanticised a lot by the media and Hollywood, truth be told, many of the real cowboys were actually ex-black slaves who were desperate to make a living, this was the same for the white people that chose to become Cowboys, none of them chose to become one due to the lifestyle a Cowboys led.
A Cowboys' life is not adventurous at all because they move through previously used path and do not explore places they have never see, neither is it exciting because they are under the constant danger of attacks from Indians or problems from the environment around them or stampeding cows. Moreover, Cowboys had to deal with harsh jobs in very unfavourable conditions in the wild. Cows were very excitable or frightened, the slightest sound could set them off and with a thousand cows running around, there's bound to be damage or even death to the Cowboys. Furthermore, Cows could stampede several times in one night and it is very possible that the cows could run a few kilometres away; the Cowboys would be given the unsettling job of gathering the Cows and rounding them up.
Much of the public think that cowboys are very much liked in where they live, however, it is the exact opposite. When crossing to the cow towns, many of the time, the Cowboys pass homestead territory. The homesteaders dislike the Cowboys as they trample on the Homesteader’s crops and quite frankly, no one would like people to trespass their land and territory.
The Cowboy faced multiple problems while on the trail, the first problem they find would be to brand all their cows, it is very likely that a Cow may fight back while you are branding a cow and you will get injured. There was a high probability that you will get a disease while on the trail, especially with thousands of cattle surrounding you, who knows which of them are carrying pathogens. The weather was also a problem, the winters were freezing cold and cowboys had to cross deep rivers that often caused drowning, not only to the Cowboys but even the cattle. Unless the Cowboys' enjoyed such a life, they wouldn't find it interesting or exciting.
Another thing was that a Cowboy’s life was under constant danger of death, the Cowboys were constantly in Indian territory and many of the Indians could be fierce, scalping or even killing the cowboys in order to obtain their cattle and horses.
However, to some extent, a cowboy’s life can be exciting, knowing that you are under constant danger, it could make some people feel excited and thrilled; especially young men, which most cowboys are and most of the cowboys took up the job knowing all that might happen to them. It could also be adventurous, the cowboy is constantly by himself, to him, moving through the rough terrain would seem adventurous and thrilling and not to mention the fact that there was a high chance that the Cowboys could get lost in the wilderness and it would definitely be adventurous if you were to navigate out of the unknown territory you found yourself in.
All in all, I disagree with the saying that a Cowboys' life is exciting and dangerous; it is merely just another job for desperate young men in need of a job. The dangers of the job far outweigh the fun factor of herding cattle and I truly doubt that Cowboys' actually like their job because they are given little money in return for all that they've done. The Cowboy is constantly under the danger of death from Indians and the environment, which constantly goes against them, furthermore, they have to tread their path carefully because Homesteaders find them to be a nuisance and would not let the Cowboys onto their paths. The cows were also a huge problem, stampedes could start from just the slightest sound and Cowboys have almost no chance against a charging bull, not to mention the fact that they would have to eventually gather up the disarrayed cows and this would definitely be a rather tiring job. Winter Spring Summer Diary Entry Cowboys Poster
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