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Myths of the Working Cowboy: No Skills Required

Posted by on Apr 12, 2019

While researching the Texas ranching industry, I’ve uncovered some interesting information based on assumptions of the ranching lifestyle and the work of the American cowboy. One historian referred to the cow hands of the great cattle driving era as “glorified cow walkers” because “cows are dumb” and they generally move in the same direction that everybody else is moving. I would like to argue that notion. The men who moved 27 million head up the trail between 1856 and 1896 were unique. Those cowpunchers had skills. UP THE TRAIL Let’s remove the dumb cow element for a moment and talk about the man and his horse. Around about April or May, saddle your horse in central Texas and ride it all the way to the railway station in Dodge City, Kansas. Along the way you can eat and sleep...

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An Obsession with Cows

Posted by on Apr 5, 2019

“Have you checked the cows today?” After moving eight miles from town and down the road from my in-laws, I wondered at my father-in-law’s compulsion to drive through his cattle every single day, sometimes twice. My husband did the same. We drove through the steers he fed out on leased grass most every day until the fall when they were taken to the sale barn.   Watching the herd graze under an endless blue sky from our new front porch was enjoyable, but nothing special. It’s not like you could actually pet a cow or form a bond like you can with a dog or cat. On occasion, my father-in-law included my sons in his craziness by stopping on his four-wheeler and taking them along. They eagerly watched for him at the end of the drive, absolute joy sparkling...

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Cowboy Gear: Ropes

Posted by on Mar 2, 2019

Slang terms for Cowboy Ropes included Line, string, ketch-rope, clothes line, throw rope, saddle rope, grass rope, twine, whale line, hard twist, hair rope, or pepper-and-salt rope.   Whatever you call it, they say that a range cowboy did everything with his rope but eat.   Vaqueros in early New Spain (Spanish empire established in North America) made their ropes from braided strips of untanned hide. The ropes were thick and stretched up to 20 yards in length.  Other early materials included silk manila, a hard-twist rope, inexpensive to make and good for all-around roping uses. There are also maguey ropes, made from the fibers of the maguey plant, from which the popular drink mescal is also produced. There were ropes made from linen or braided cotton. Mane-hair ropes were called cabresto. Lariat is the Americanized version of la...

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Collecting Recipes

Posted by on Feb 22, 2019

Cookbooks take up three shelves above the desk in our kitchen, some old, some inherited and some new. My favorites are those old, used and sometimes stained binders filled with family favorites  put together by church ladies or quilting clubs. I find them in used book stores and sometimes in unexpected places, hidden behind cast-off treasures in antique stores. I have to confess that I enjoy reading the cookbook more than I enjoy the actual task of cooking. It seems our life is so busy, and there’s the menu planning, the buying of the stuff, the prep work, and finally the actual cooking part. When I have a free evening to actually cook, the boys request their tried and true favorites.  Sometimes they seem annoyed when I change things up or experiment with a new dish. None the less,...

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Cowboy Gear: Saddles

Posted by on Feb 1, 2019

“The West was won and conquered by the men who sit in saddle leather.” Saddle, a cowboy’s workbench and his throne. In the West, known as cow saddles, range saddles, stock saddles. In the East as Mexican saddles, Western saddles or cowboy saddles. Western cowboys were not impressed with the small, pad-saddles of the Eastern rider and referred to them as hog skins, kidney pads, pimples, or postage stamps. Made for riding, not for working stubborn Longhorns, most came without saddle horn and with narrow pieces of iron as stirrups. Impressed by the skills of the Mexican vaquero, Texas cowhands adopted their saddle among other things, eventually modifying the Mexican-style mochila saddle, which appeared in the 1850s.  Known as the “Texas saddle”, it weighed only 12 to 13 pounds, the tree was covered with stitched rawhide and the stirrups...

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From Vequero to Cowboy

Posted by on Jan 18, 2019

What’s the difference between Vequero or Cowboy? Cattle handlers were called many names with various meanings over the past 150 years, beginning with the great cattle drive era to present day. Today cowboy is the most familiar term, but in the old days it meant something entirely different. The great cattle drives as we know it really took off in 1866 when Texas pioneer and cattleman Charles Goodnight drove a herd to Fort Sumner and then on to Colorado thus establishing the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Cowboy literally meant a “boy” who tended the herds. Just barely in their teens, they were hired from the towns and farms to spend the next three to six months on the trail driving the valuable beef to northern markets. Much of the labor pool were second sons from European families whose first born had...

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