Re-Print of "SALVATION, TEXAS"
a contemporary mystery/police procedural/ romance set in West Texas, by Anna Jeffrey
Cowboys are uniquely “Texas,” and evolved in the course of sweeping social change. Following is a generalized story of how that came to be, with a lot of details left out.
After the Civil War, displaced southern farmers largely made up the huge migration that took place from the southern states to Texas. There, the new residents met up with legendary Mexican vaqueros. The vaqueros had been gathering and tending the wild longhorns that roamed the Texas prairies for generations and were known for their skills with a rope as well as for outstanding horsemanship. It didn’t take long for the young men and boys new to Texas to learn those skills from the Mexicans.
At the same time, with the post-war economic recovery, came the driving demand from the east for beef. Ambitious entrepreneurs knew how to satisfy that demand if they could just get those longhorns to a railhead to be shipped east. Thus came the cattle drive. Many of the hands those entrepreneurs hired to drive the cattle north were mere teenagers or at the most, young adults. These young men, with their southern customs and mannerisms and skills they had learned from the Mexican vaqueros became known as “cowboys.”
Obviously, the meat from the wild longhorn cattle was tough and the animals were hard to manage. Investors saw an opportunity to provide a better product. From as far away as Europe and England, new domestic breeds of cattle were imported and huge cattle ranches were founded in Texas and the western states, which also required the services of “cowboys” as ranch hands.
Of course there were plenty of horsemen and cattle tenders in Texas long before the Civil War, but the term “cowboy” didn’t begin to emerge until the cattle drives.
The “cowboy” legend was further propagated by the emergence of rodeos, where the participants were cowboys showing off skills they used in their daily work. This is probably the legend that has been forwarded to today. When anyone thinks of cowboys these days, they usually think of rodeo cowboys.