New Perspectives on THE WEST
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The People
Empire Upon The Trails
Speck of the Future
Death Runs Riot
The Grandest Enterprise Under God
Fight No More Forever
The Geography of Hope
One Sky Above Us
Grandest Enterprise Under God


A Grand Anvil Chorus

White Man's Pipe

The Artillery of Heaven

An Instinct for Direction

One People

The Woman's Exponent

Walking Gold Pieces

Good Company

How do you like Nebraska?


A Wound in the Heart

THE WEST The Grandest Enterprise Under God


Longhorn Cow“Here was all these cheap long-horned steers over-running Texas; here was the rest of the country crying out for beef -- and no railroads in Texas to get them out. So they trailed them out, across hundreds of miles of wild country."
Teddy Blue Abbott

From the southernmost tip of Texas, cattle trails pointed north -- the Shawnee, the Chisholm, the Western, the Goodnight-Loving. They all led to railheads, where the cattle were loaded into freight cars bound for eastern markets.

In less than two decades six million steers and cows were moved along them; so many, one trail driver said, that in places the dust was knee-deep to the cattle. The men who brought them to the railroads were given a new name "cowboys."

Five Montana CowboysThey were a mixed group: former Confederate cavalry men and immigrants who had only recently learned to ride; there were Indian cowboys and African-Americans -- and Mexican vaqueros, whose ancestors had introduced cattle to the West centuries earlier. A cowboy, one westerner observed, is "just a plain bowlegged human who smelled very horsey at times."

Teddy Blue Abbott"In person the cowboys were mostly medium-sized men... quick and wiry, and as a rule very good-natured; in fact, it did not pay to be anything else. In character, their like never was or will be again."
Teddy Blue Abbott

Edward C. Abbott was born in Cranwich, England, and brought to the West by his parents as a boy. Hoping the open air would improve his frail health, his father let him help drive a herd of cattle from Texas to Nebraska when he was just 10 years old. The experience, Abbott said later, "made a cowboy out of me. Nothing could have changed me after that."

Cowboys at Roundup"My family and I went separate ways, and they stayed separate forever after. My father was all for farming... and all my brothers turned out farmers except one, and he ended up the worst of the lot -- a sheep-man, and a Republican."
Teddy Blue Abbott

The cowboys' average age was 24. They were paid so badly, and worked so hard, that two-thirds of them made only one trail drive before finding something better to do. They owned their saddle, but not the horse they rode -- and they rode it day and night.

Black menFor a man to be stove up at thirty may sound strange to some people, but many a cowboy has been so bunged up that he has to quit riding that early in life... My advice to any young man or boy is to stay at home and not be a rambler, as it won't buy you anything.
James Emmit McCauley

Teddy Blue Abbott"If a storm come and the cattle started running -- you'd hear that low rumbling noise along the ground... then you'd jump for your horse and get out there in the lead, trying to head them and get them into a mill before they scattered to hell and gone. It was riding at a dead run in the dark, with cut banks and prairie dog holes all around you, not knowing if the next jump would land you in a shallow grave."

Cowboys Around the Campfire"The singing was supposed to soothe the cattle and it did... The two men on guard would circle around with their horses on a walk, if it was a clear night and the cattle was bedded down and quiet, and one man would sing a verse of a song, and his partner on the other side of the herd would sing another verse; and you'd go through a whole song that way... I had a crackerjack of a partner in '79. I'd sing and he'd answer, and we'd keep it up like that for two hours. But he was killed by lightning."
Teddy Blue Abbott

After up to four straight months in the saddle, often in the same clothes every day, eating every meal at the chuck wagon, drinking nothing but coffee and water, the cowboy's job was finally done -- he was paid for his work, and turned loose in town.

"I bought some new clothes and got my picture taken... I had a new white Stetson hat that I paid ten dollars for, and new pants that cost twelve dollars, and a good shirt and fancy boots. Lord, I was proud of those clothes! When my sister saw me, she said: "Take your pants out of your boots and put your coat on. You look like an outlaw." I told her to go to hell. And I never did like her after that. "
Teddy Blue Abbott

Cowboys were big spenders, but while businesses profited, all the cowtowns soon became wilder than their permanent residents liked.

Two shot dead in Hays, KansasThe Marshal has posted up printed notices, informing all persons that the ordinance against carrying firearms or other weapons in Abilene will be enforced. That's right. There's no bravery in carrying revolvers in a civilized community.
Abilene Chronicle

Gun control ordinances were common; cowboys who insisted on carrying their six-shooters in town risked fines and imprisonment. To make sure the laws were obeyed, some cowtowns resorted to hiring notorious gunmen -- Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Wild Bill Hickok -- to keep the peace.

Morally, as a class, cowboys are foulmouthed, blasphemous, drunken, lecherous, utterly corrupt. Usually harmless on the plains when sober, they are dreaded in towns, for then liquor has an ascendancy over them.
Cheyenne Daily Leader

One by one, the cowtowns would declare themselves off-limits to the Texas herds and the cowboys who came with them.

Teddy Blue Abbott"Then I went home. After I got home my father said to me one night: 'You can take old Morgan... and plow the west ridge tomorrow.' Like hell I'd plow the west ridge. And when he woke up next morning, Teddy was gone."
Teddy Blue Abbott

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