Sunday, November 12, 2017

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy (revisited)

Cowboys—packaged pride in what they do

By Julie Carter

Extreme weather is and always has been a noted feature offered up by the Texas panhandle.

There are more stories about the “extremes” of hot and cold in that area than there are cattle in the feedlots. It is not uncommon to have someone tell you about their kin that moved to Amarillo, Texas from Fairbanks, Alaska and promptly moved back to Fairbanks after declaring it was “too damn cold” in Amarillo.

Blizzards, both sand and snow are a common occurrence and you just about have to be from there to like it there. But the close proximity to feed and cattle keep the feed yards in business and the cowboys employed.

Men from the smaller backyard cattle growing region of the southeast will come in with a woods colt, an old saddle, and pointed-toe boots common to that region. With an excited attitude, they perceive this feedlot cowboy job to be an adventure.

The climate and severe working conditions of the feed yards can disillusion them in a hurry. They are able to go back home to a job and often do; resuming previously thought mundane careers of driving lumber or cattle trucks. Upon their return they will be able to talk about their time working in the big country and how cold and hard it was.

The homegrown panhandle ranch cowboys will have handmade tall top boots with several rows of stitching, under slung heels and round toes to prevent stirrup hang ups. They will bring handmade western working saddles which are traditional style double rigged and have a breast collar. Their saddles will wear anywhere from one to a dozen piggin’ strings (small ropes) hanging from them as well as hobbles and medicine bags.

Their custom spurs will have hinged buttons and their spur and headstall buckles will be rust colored with silver brands or initials. The spurs will sometimes bear cutting, roping or other type of special rowels reflecting the cowboy’s particular interest. Some will sport the pizza cutter rowels and jingle bobs that are usually to make noise to aggravate everybody else.

Panhandle punchers will, almost to a man, always wear black well worn hats. These make a statement as well as any words in the English language verbalized could by saying “I’m here now, move it on over.” For the most part, that is not brag-- just fact.

Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado cowboys all have variations in their style depending on the regions. The northern boys will have leggings for chaps instead of the short chinks worn by many from the hotter desert regions. New Mexico seems to favor the higher topped boots and other garb that lets them blend across the borders in any direction.

Then there are few idiosyncrasies in cowboy gear that each generation hopes will pass without becoming history. One of those currently is the “taco hat” which is a straw cowboy hat with an extremely wide brim folded up to resemble a taco shell. The style appeared to originate in the panhandle but has begun migrating west. Recently I heard it called the ‘No Mirror” hat, meaning if that cowboy had a mirror and saw how ridiculous he looked, he would take it off and stomp on it.

While the Texas panhandle cowboys will lay claim to be the punchiest bunch of punchers ever, the title will always be challenged by cowboys from everywhere. If a cowboy isn’t anything else, he is a walking talking package of pride in what he does-- no matter where he does it.

© Julie Carter 2005

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