Cowboys are cattle-tending range riders that drove massive herds from grasslands to the railroads from 1860-1900. Free life-style, outdoor skills and raucous behavior made them legendary figures of today!
Cowboys have been the quintessential American heros. Their propensities from tough riding, rough fighting, and justifiable gunplay, have enshrined them as an admirable man of action, free of domestic restraint or responsibility, while their supposed gallantry in saving pioneer women from marauding Indians, gunslingers and mortgage for closing bank agents has endured him with the aspect of a knight errant of the sagebrush. The real cowboy, however, bore a family that would resemble his mythical cousin. Beginning in Texas of the 1820s, the cowboy perfected his skills with horse, rope, gun, lasso and branding iron. By the 19th century, he became vital to cattle business. He was a day laborer, a migrant worker on horse back who would shepherd the cattle on the open range, protect them from rustlers and mark them with the brand of his employer.
The heyday of the cowboy began in 1867, when Joseph G. McCoy built a stockyard at Kansas railhead named Abilene. Within four years, these lowly rangehands, recruited from the very race and nationality, drove 1.5 million heads of cattle hundreds of miles along hazardous trails from Texas to the railheads, where they were sold, loaded into cars and transported east to the slaughterhouses! Along the way, the cowboy would face innumerable dangers! These dangers included stampedes, Indian attacks, rustlers and thirst. Once the cowboys were paid, they would usually spend several days celebrating in the cowtowns such as Abilene, Dodge City, Wichita and Hays City, Kansas. He was a ready victim of his own drunken high spirits that often lead him into fatal gunfights! Technology brought an end to the era of the old-fashioned cowboy. By the end of the century, barbed wire had enclosed much of the grasslands, and the railroads were slowly inching into the heart of the cattle country. Both the open range and the long cattle drives became all but memories of the past.