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Old West - Myth vs. Reality

A few facts about the reality of the Old West versus what Hollywood made it look like.
by

Mark Griswold Jr.

on 16 January 2013

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Transcript of Old West - Myth vs. Reality

The reality of the Old West versus what Hollywood made it look like. Old West - Myth vs. Reality The west was settled by those who sought
land and opportunity. Loads of animals and
fertile farm land were enticing enough for
people to follow. The land known as the
frontier was full of danger, however. Intense
heat, predators and territorial Indians guarded
the large amount of wealth in the west. Cowboys Westward Expansion Cowboys in the Old West were not all giddy and heroic. They had jobs to do that were difficult and did not have a lot of leisure time. On the silver screen, cowboys were portrayed as old, fighting men. In reality, they were usually just reaching adulthood and did not have their own family. Although there were not many African American and Hispanic cowboys in the movies, they made up a large amount of the cowboys in reality. During the spring, cowboys would move cattle from place to place. Cowboys would lead anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 cows to their designated location. They were usually paid around twenty-five to forty dollars a month and were fed. If a cowboy was injured on the job, the usual medicine was either liquor or something containing liquor. The famous cowboys in the movies and the real cowboys do have something in common. After completing their job, cowboys were able to hang out at the local saloon and relax. Indians Indians living in the west typically were not
vile, aggressive people. The Blackfoot Indians,
who lived near the Rocky Mountains, hunted
deer, buffalo and bear. These Indians lived in
tipis and conducted their usual ceremonies and
other meetings. The Blackfoot Indian's main
game was buffalo. They used buffalo to make
clothing, shelter and tools. Blackfoot Indians
traded with European trappers and never
attacked white men. They were forced to
defend their territory, however. Homesteaders Homesteaders were granted land in the west, but
only if they tended to the land for five years.
Homesteaders were usually European men. After the
Civil War, freed African American slaves were allowed
to grab some land, too. Homesteaders came into
conflict with Indians and other ranchers who were
already settled in the west. The lack of trees was also a problem. Homesteaders often built their homes out of sod or blocks of dirt. A lot of the west was
compromised of homesteaders. They created a more
civilized lifestyle on the frontier. Miners Miners sought out large veins, called bonanzas, of gold and silver in the west. An assortment of ores could be found including gold, silver, zinc, copper and lead. Towns were established on the site of a large vein of ore. Males dominated the towns, but when it came to race, any kind of person could be found. Rich white men managed the business aspects of the mining while poor white men, Hispanics and Chinese Americans did the grueling, difficult work in the mines. African Americans usually worked as cooks. Miner towns included a saloon and other important buildings full of services and government, but everyone was always hard at work in the mines or doing paper work. The miner town either prospered until the bonanza was depleted or no real wealth was discovered. Women of the West Women in the west usually came with their
families. If their husband died, they would continue to work the farm or marry another
man. Women from the east or brought over from
Asia could marry men who found wealth in the west. A lot of women came over to the west to teach or spread the word of God. Teachers usually found a husband and abandoned their
teaching jobs. Following popular knowledge, many women became prostitutes and lived in the mining towns in the west. Businesswomen were rare but they existed amongst the men of the mining towns. Sources http://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/cowboys/15597
http://thewildwest.org/nativeamericans/nativeamericansociety/40-blackfoot.html
http://www.the-wild-west.co.uk/homesteaders.htm
http://www.ushistory.org/us/41a.asp
http://www.ehow.com/info_8236670_roles-women-western-frontier.html by Mark Griswold
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