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Cowboy Gear: Ropes

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 reata, Spanish for “the rope.” Lasso, first coming from Portuguese origins laco, meaning to snare.

Whatever the materials, the Mexican vequero impressed the early cowhands with his proficiency and skill.

Dally, from the Spanish word dar la vuelta, means to wrap around an object, literally “giving her a turn.” In this case the rope is dallied around the saddle horn. The give in a dallied rope eliminates the stress of a sudden stop on the saddle horse and on the livestock being roped. If anything happens, the rope can be easily turned loose.

Tying on means tying directly to the saddle horn instead of dallying. Tied hard and fast, the rope is anchored to the saddle. Others are watchful and willing to cut the rope loose from that which is roped at the other end, if necessary.

Learning how to handle a rope with proficiency is the most difficult of all cowboy skills, and hours upon hours are spent in mastering the ability. When a limping steer emerges from behind the clump of mesquite trees, there is no better way to find out the problem than with a cowboy or cowgirl on a horse who can swing a rope. That steer is hurting, suffering, and fighting mad, and he will not cooperate no matter that you only want to help him.

All pics by N. Bright.

Natalie Bright is an author, blogger, and speaker. Her new book, MAVERICK HEART, will be out in January. Written with co-author Denise McAllister, the new WILD COW RANCH series will be available January 2021, a Christian Western Romance, from CKN Christian Publishing. Book #1 MAVERICK HEART. Book #2 WILD COW WINTER. Book #3 FOLLOW A WILD HEART.

In May 2021, look for KEEP ‘EM FULL AND KEEP ‘EM ROLLIN‘ featuring authentic recipes from the cattle trail along with ranch photography and history of the great cattle driving era. Pre-order it now from TwoDot Books.