Monday, December 10, 2012

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Cowpunchers melting pot

By Julie Carter

Cowboys have their own style that has evolved through a century of working their trade.  Though widely imitated by everyone from John Travolta to a Wall Street wanna-be, the true essence of genuine is rarely captured.

Often the differences between imitation and genuine are so subtle only another cowboy can discern them. 

Cowboys will usually judge the other by the first impression. Initially, it will be the hat and boots on the cowboy followed by the tack (saddle etc.) that the horse is wearing. After that, the real test comes when observing a man’s skill with a horse or his handling of cattle.

Unique to the occupation, cowboy style will vary with every hundred miles of geography depending on weather, terrain, types of cattle work and necessities of the occupation.

The Texas Panhandle is said to draw the largest concentration of cattle on feed anywhere in the world. That makes it about the best place in the world to catch the largest number of working cowboys in the same place at any one time.

Some come from ranch owning families and others from working ranch hand families. Others come from South Texas or are buckaroos from Nevada. More than a few have waded the Rio Grande having cowboyed their way from Chihuahua to El Paso.

Many arrive from places where towns crowded them out, while others are kids working their way through college. A fair number have diplomas and are paying their dues at the bottom of the ladder before they go on to manage one of the mammoth feed yards.

Occasionally one will have come west from the piney woods of southeastern United States after deciding he was tired of driving cattle trucks hauling stocker cattle to the feedlots in the Texas Panhandle.  In the winters they will drift down from Montana, the Dakotas, Kansas and anywhere the climate is reputedly more fierce.

The major portion of the Texas Panhandle cowboys are homegrown panhandle ranch hands coming to “town” to work the feedlots for awhile. They can always count on employment, a steady paycheck and almost none of them have any illusions about the romance of cowboying.

This melting pot of cowboy types, unless raised at the feedlots, will be overwhelmed with the sheer numbers of confined cattle. Most will have come from places where sections of land scattered cattle far and wide. They will bring their good horses who will likewise be appalled by the dust, mud and endless multitude of gates to be opened horseback.

The Panhandle feedlot cowboys are a colorful lot and perform an absolutely critical function for the cattle industry. Owners of the cattle in the feed yards, feedlot managers and feedlot owners recognize that these men are the backbone of this labor intensive operation.

Decades may pass, but the look changes only a little in style. Under it all are young men with a dream. The cowboys themselves just look at it as their jobs—another part of being a cowboy. In good cowboy style, they just enjoy being punchers.

Julie can be reached for comment at

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