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Guest Post, Haley Whitehall

I have a treat for all of you today! Haley Whitehall is guest posting on one of my favorite topics – COWBOYS. I’ve always thought a cowboy is a strong, sensitive man who can take of himself and his woman. He may be rough around the edges, but his woman knows how to reach his vulnerable, sensuous side.  And what a great job he has – riding his favorite horse in the beautiful, wild west! Isn’t that your image, too?

Haley tells us the truth about cowboys. I think I admire them even more knowing what a tough job they had. Of course, I’ll always daydream about them romantically!

Take it away, Haley!

The Double Lives Of Cowboys

First of all, I would like to thank Marcia for inviting me to her wonderful blog. When asked to write a history post I pondered several topics before arriving on this one. While this may seem common knowledge to some, I am amazed every day when I come across someone surprised by the truth. Since, I like to shed light on history I hope you enjoy this fun comparison.

Historically, cowboys have lived two lives. One of fact and one of fiction; one of romance and one of reality. The myth of the cowboy has been perpetuated through the years, first by stories such as dime novels, and more recently, by cowboys on the silver screen–my personal favorite being John Wayne.John Wayne

The image of John Wayne: big, handsome, rugged, quiet, standing tall in the saddle on his favorite horse has captured the hearts of many. That is the romantic side of cowboys.

In my opinion, the difference between a western and a historical fiction novel set in the cowboy era is the extent to which they adhere to readers’ romantic notions. Westerns are more for entertainment not historical truth.

The heyday of the cowboy era began after the Civil War and lasted until the mid 1880s. Yet cowboy legends will last forever. One of my favorite movie quotes comes from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

The historical reality of cowboys is much different from a John WayneCowboys movie. The cowboy life was not glamorous. It was very difficult working 18-hour days and the long trail rides were often lonely, boring and depending on factors such as weather, thieves and stampedes; they were often dangerous.

Just for fun here is a glimpse comparing the double lives of cowboys.

Romance Reality
Most cowboys were tall and large-framed. Most cowboys had small or medium frames. Large men were too heavy to ride mustangs.
A cowboy would ride his favorite horse all day. Cowboys would ride a string of horses depending on what task was at hand. For example, a mild horse would be used at night and a quick horse would be used for cattle roping and tending.
Cowboys owned the horses they rode. Often cowboys would borrow horses from their bosses. They would pick the saddle horses they would use for the day from the remuda.
The job of “Cowboy” has U.S origins — usually Texas is cited. Actually, the “cowboy” profession came from the Mexican and Spanish “vaquero.” Many cowboy words and practices were adapted into the English language from the Spanish and Mexican culture. For example, chaps, corral, lasso, rancher, and lariat all have Mexican origins.
Most cowboys were older, experienced wranglers. Most cowboys were young men who learned on the job. The long days and labor required of cowboys wore out a man’s body by their late twenties. If a man stayed on till an old age he was transferred to less strenuous work.
Worked for generous “hands on” bosses who were involved in the day-to-day business of the ranch. Think of Mr. Granger on The Virginian. More often than not, cowboys worked for a corporation or absentee owner who was back East or in Europe. They ran their ranches through their foremen.
Cowboys wore spotless, decorated shirts or fancy vests and traditional cowboy hats. Cowboys often wore “hand me down” clothing discarded by others. The clothing they did purchase was heavy duty, laborer wear, nothing fancy. It had to last through many hours of riding and working. They could have worn any hat that existed in the time period. Wide brim hats became popular because they kept the sun out of their eyes.
Cowboys always wore a Colt .45 on their hip. In many outfits, there were rules against carrying guns. Carrying a loaded gun while working cattle on horseback could be dangerous. Also, guns weighed a lot and often made it difficult to ride a horse and work. Guns were usually strapped onto a wagon rather than carried on the person.
Cowboys were often married or wanted to marry and settle down. While I’ve had a crush on many cowboy actors, most cowboys were single. The long hours and demand on their bodies made marrying difficult. If a cowboy did settle down it was usually after they gave up their job as a cowhand.

Haley Whitehall Haley Whitehall writes novels, set in the 19th century United States, exploring the depths of human nature. Her novels portray the past with sharp, straight-shooting truth, shedding light on history.

Check out her website: http://haleywhitehall.com/

Follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/HaleyWhitehall

Haley, thank you for a fun and informative post!

So, what do you all think about cowboys now? This post gives you a new respect for how they helped shaped the west, doesn’t it?

Tomorrow I’ll be guest posting over at Haley’s blog. Please join me there for another revelation!

Don’t forget – The Life List Club Friday is coming up! As always, expect some fun and motivational posts from all of our writers. We’re welcoming a new addition, too – Gary Gauthier! Please come by and welcome him with some comment love!

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Discussion

  1. Sonia G Medeiros  October 5, 2011

    Oooh! I love the new blog look.

    Fascinating post, Haley. Is it still okay to believe in the fantasy cowboy though? LOL

    (reply)
    • Marcia  October 5, 2011

      Thanks, Sonia! I’ll always think of cowboys romantically…same with bikers, cops and James Bond-type spies!

      (reply)
  2. Marion Spicher  October 5, 2011

    My current19th Century Pioneering WIP includes some cowboy activity, and I thank you for this post, Haley, and for having her as a guest, Maria. I shall keep this post in my research!

    (reply)
    • Marcia  October 5, 2011

      That’s so cool, Marion! i’m glad this will help you in your writing! Thanks for coming by.

      (reply)
      • Haley Whitehall (@HaleyWhitehall)  October 5, 2011

        Hi Marion,
        It is wonderful to cyber meet you. I’m glad you found my post helpful. I would love to know more about your 19th century pioneering WIP.

        (reply)
  3. Diana Douglas  October 5, 2011

    I love it when I can learn something new. Fiction is usually much more romantic than life. Otherwise, no one would take the time to read it. Thanks for a great post.

    (reply)
    • Marcia  October 5, 2011

      I know what you mean, Diana. Sometimes fiction is the world I’d rather be in. thanks for coming by

      (reply)
    • Haley Whitehall (@HaleyWhitehall)  October 5, 2011

      Diana, that is so true! There is nothing wrong with a romantic view of the West. I still enjoy reading about it and watching it in the movies even though I know the truth. Fiction is supposed to transport us to a magical world, right?

      (reply)
  4. patriciasands  October 5, 2011

    This was so interesting! One of the fabulous things about the blogosphere is the opportunity to learn about things we might never take the time to search out on our own. Thanks!

    (reply)
    • Marcia  October 5, 2011

      Oh, I know, Patricia, that’s my favorite thing about blogs!

      (reply)

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  1. Cowboys: Reality vs. Romance  October 5, 2011
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