"The combination of lack of sleep, the heat, and the monotony of the food, is draining everyone's spirits."
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Johnny is the spirited Englishman in the bunch. He can banter with the best of them, a skill he no doubt learned as a boarder at Eton College, the exclusive English high school for boys, which he attended for five years. Johnny recently graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in biochemistry. When not studying, this upper-class Englishman excels at rowing, polo, poker, and throwing parties.
"You can't just run your body dry and this last week, that's all we've been doing. The combination of lack of sleep, the heat, and the monotony of the food is draining everyone's spirits. There is not a real end in sight to this. I hope it changes pretty soon or else I know some people around here are pretty close to packing it in."
The cowboy is an essential member of the ranch operation but considered a day laborer. Since the end of the Civil War, young men all over the country have been unemployed and are therefore willing to take on unglamorous, hard work. A cowhand is free to get up and go when he pleases. He is the consummate individual.
Johnny works from dawn till dusk, seven days a week unless otherwise directed. On many ranches, cowboys were allowed only two days off: Christmas and the Fourth of July. His duties may differ each day, but generally include cow work and repairs to buildings, wagons, saddles, and other tack gear. Cowhands often spend the entire day in the saddle, but are also expected to help with ranch maintenance and other work. Johnny may be asked to look after the larger animals, such as goats and pigs.
While working the open range, Johnny is required to go on "cowhunts." Once he and his fellow cowboys find cattle, they must herd them back to a home range or an area where they can be tallied and either branded or tail-bobbed and in some cases castrated. Johnny and the cowboys must also patrol the boundaries of the ranch for rustlers and other dangers. On the trail, days are longer, and at night the cowboys must take turns "night herding" -- watching over the cattle in two-hour shifts. Johnny will also be assigned to a specific position on the herd as he drives it during the day. When cattle are well strung out they walk much better and are more readily handled.
A cowboy's horse is his best friend, and the welfare of his "remuda" -- the three horses that a cowboy rotates riding so as not to overuse any -- comes before his own personal comfort. He must watch that their backs and feet don't get sore or injured and keep an eye out for sores and bites. He should be able to correct and control his horse, but abusiveness will never be tolerated.
All ranch hands live in the bunkhouse. They are expected to keep their bunk area clean, airing out their mat and rolling it neatly, and keeping their personal possessions in order and out of the way of others. Respect for superiors and women is the hallmark of a well-mannered cowboy. Mr. Cooke expects and demands that the cowboys show deference and courtesy to himself and to his family.
Produced by Thirteen/WNET New York and Wall to Wall Television.
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