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Down in the Skillet

Cowboy Slang

Texans have a way of cutting consonants and lengthening vowels to speak our mind. Some people may assume we’re ignorant. I think we’re somewhat lazy and very entertaining. For instance, we’ve shortened you all to y’all. Rather than converse in a lengthy explanation of our intentions and plans, we simply say, “I’m fixin’ to.” The listener has to fill in the intended task based on the previous conversation.

Talking Hoss

Same thing goes for the cowboys and cattlemen. Raising quality beef steak is an important profession. Technology has had some influence on the cattle and ranching industry, but what remains is a simple way of speaking your mind. There are few story tellers equal to a group of cowboys gathered around talking hoss. I heard a cowboy mention that his horse was smoked, which means the horse had already been ridden hard for the day and needed a rest so the cowboy had to find a fresh horse. Most cowboys take several horses to the spring branding. One simple word can say a lot.

branding 080

Down in the Skillet

In the olden days, the Texas Panhandle was down in the skillet. On the cattle drive, the chuck wagon cook, or dough-wrangler, might whip up a batch of sour-doughs with sop (biscuits and gravy), along with a boggy top for dessert (a pie with only a bottom crust).

After a hard days work, a cowhand might dig around in his war-bag for a clean shirt, which is a carry-all for his personal possessions. I’ve heard the term used today by rodeo cowboys. It’s a sports bag with their gear for riding broncs or bulls.  Back to the olden days, if he could find clean duds, he’d slick-up for the shin-dig at a neighboring ranch where they’d shake a good hoof until day break.

Cowboy Slang Reference

These witty and colorful catch phrases are interesting to me as a western writer, and I try to sprinkle a few throughout my stories. I’ve discovered several helpful reference books, in case you have a hankering to read more about the lingo of the great American west.

COWBOY LINGO by Ramon F. Adams, is a collection of “slack-jaw words and whangdoodle ways” (Houghton Mifflin Company).

WESTERN WORDS, by Ramon F. Adams, A dictionary of the Old West (Hippocrene Books, New York).

COWBOY SLANG  “Colorful Cowboy Sayings” by Edgar R. “Frosty” Potter (Golden West Pub).