vast and rude, brought forth men also vast and rude. We pass today 
over parts of that matchless region, and we see the red hills and ragged
mountain-fronts cut and crushed into huge indefinite shapes, to which even
a small imagination may give a human or more than human form. It would
almost seem that the same great hand which chiseled out these monumental
forms had also laid its fingers upon the people of this region and
fashioned them rude and iron-like, in harmony with the stern faces set
all the babes of that primeval mother, the West,
was perhaps her dearest because he was her last. Some of her children
lived for centuries; this one for not a triple decade before he began to
be old. What was really the life of this child of the wild region of
America, and what were the conditions of the experience that bore him, can
never be fully known by those who have not seen the
with wide eyes -- for thecowboy
was simply a part of the West.
He who does not understand the one can never understand the other.
If we care truly to see
the cowboy as he was and seek to give our wish the dignity of a real
purpose, we should study him in connection with his surroundings and
in relation to his work. Then we shall see him not as a curiosity but
as a product -- not as an eccentric driver of horned cattle but as a
man suited to his times.
Large tracts of that domain where
once the cowboy
reigned supreme have been turned into farms by the irrigator's ditch
or by the dry-farmer's plan. The farmer in overalls is in many
instances his own stockman today. On the ranges of
and parts of
we may find the cowboy,
it is true, even today: but he is no longer the Homeric figure that
once dominated the plains. In what we say as to his trade, therefore,
or his fashion in the practice of it, we speak in terms of thirty or
forty years ago, when wire was unknown, when the round-up still was
necessary, and the cowboy's life was indeed that of the open.
By the costume we may often know the man.
The cowboy's costume was harmonious with its surroundings. It was
planned upon lines of such stern utility as to leave no possible thing
which we may call dispensable. The typical cowboy
costume could hardly be said to contain a coat and waistcoat. The
heavy woolen shirt, loose and open at the neck, was the common wear at
all seasons of the year excepting winter, and one has often seen
in the winter-time engaged in work about the yard or corral of the
ranch wearing no other cover for the upper part of the body but one or
more of these heavy shirts. If the cowboy
wore a coat he would wear it open and loose as much as possible. If he
wore a "vest" he would wear it slouchily, hanging open or partly
unbuttoned most of the time. There was a reason for this slouchy
habit. The cowboy
would say that the vest closely buttoned about the body would cause
perspiration, so that the wearer would quickly chill upon ceasing
exercise. If the wind were blowing keenly when the cowboy
dismounted to sit upon the ground for dinner, he would button up his
waistcoat and be warm. If it were very cold he would button up his
cowboy's boots were of fine leather and fitted tightly, with light
narrow soles, extremely small and high heels. Surely a more irrational
foot-covering never was invented; yet these tight, peaked
boots had a great significance and may indeed be called the insignia
of a calling.
was no prouder soul on earth than the cowboy.
He was proud of being a horseman and had a contempt for all human beings
who walked. On foot in his tight-toed boots he was lost; but he wished it
to be understood that he never was on foot. If we rode beside him and
watched his seat in the big cow saddle we found that his high and narrow
heels prevented the slipping forward of the foot in the stirrup, into
which he jammed his feet nearly full length. If there was a fall, the
foot never hung in the stirrup. In the corral roping, afoot, his heels
anchored him. So he found his little boots not so unserviceable and
retained them as a matter of pride. Boots made for the cowboy
trade sometimes had fancy tops of bright-colored leather. The Lone Star of
was not infrequent in their ornamentation.
The curious pride of the horseman extended
also to his gloves. The cowboy
was very careful in the selection of his gloves. They were made of the
finest buckskin, which could not be injured by wetting. Generally they
were tanned white and cut with a deep cuff or gauntlet from which hung a
little fringe to flutter in the wind when he rode at full speed on
hat was one of the typical and striking features of his costumes. It was a
heavy, wide, white felt hat with a heavy leather band buckled about it.
There has been no other head covering devised so suitable as the Stetson
for the uses of the Plains, although high and heavy black hats have in
part supplanted it today among stockmen. The boardlike felt was
practically indestructible. The brim flapped a little and, in time, was
turned up and perhaps held fast to the crown by a thong.
The wearer might sometimes
stiffen the brim by passing a thong through a series of holes pierced
through the outer edge. He could depend upon his hat in all weathers. In
the rain it was an umbrella; in the sun a shield; in the winter he could
tie it down about his ears with his handkerchief.