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gauchos, charros, and vaqueros; several items relating to Australian and aboriginal cowhands; an

account of rustling problems in the Boer Wars; a great number of items on the Spanish missions

and the Spanish Southwest (generally unheralded in spite of their foundational role for ranching

history in the Americas); an account of a vaquero’s experiences in the


s on the Dadanawa

Ranch near the Guyana-Brazil border on the Rupununi River; two rare and early ephemera on the

Calgary Stampede; an uncommon, lively chromolithographed program for Bu


alo Bill’s Wild

West Show in


; and much, much more.

The history of the cattle industry is the history of far more than just cowboys, trail drives, and

ranching. It is the history of the spread of European domination over the landscapes of the Amer-

ican West, and indeed, much of the New World. While trappers were generally the


rst to open a

new region, discovering and establishing trails, and decimating select species of native fauna, it

was cattlemen who wedged open the door for an incoming


ood of “civilization.”When opening

a new frontier, livestock raising was often the


rst major endeavor, allowing both subsistence and

a chance for some economic gain in regions where no infrastructure or economy was yet in place.

The vast herds of bison that once roamed the American West, and the Native Americans, so many

of whom were dependent on the bison, were cleared to make way for domesticated grazers. Once

the perils of the frontier were somewhat mitigated by the persistent presence of the cattlemen,

others—more civilized, more fearful, or both—began to arrive and establish homesteads, settle-

ments, towns, and agriculture. As settlement increased, so too did land-use con


icts, and thus

arose the need for fencing and the invention of barbed wire.

Just as cattle came to dominate many Western landscapes, so too has the mythic image of the

American cowboy branded itself upon the American psyche. The cowboy was larger than life

even at the beginning of his


eeting heyday (from the end of the Civil War to the mid-



Sometimes the individual cowboy had di


culty swaggering up to his own self-imposed tough

stereotype. The average age of the American cowboy was twenty-four years, about one in three

was Mexican or Black, and the most common end for a cowboy was being dragged to his death

by his horse. These young men were as various as any group, despite facile typecasting, and the

“real” face of the cowboy is not so easy to discern. In fact, the “real” face of the approximately forty

thousand men who rode the range is approximately forty thousand faces. Values like courage, in-

dividuality, stoicism, and freedom are often associated with the American cowboy, but in the early

days, the term“cowboy”was sometimes used to refer to outlaws. The term“cowboy” is said to have

been the name used for armed Tories in the American Revolution who softly clanged cowbells to

lure patriot farmers into being ambushed in the brush while searching for lost cows.

Contradictions abound regarding the cowboy, and little wonder this is, when one considers the

time and place in which the American cowboy dwelled. Against a background of rigid Victorian

values, the cowboy lived desperately by the tough Code of theWest, often in hazardous conditions,

and with his employer having scant regard for his welfare. The cowboy pitted his body and mind

against a landscape of sweeping grandeur which often was rife with misery and death.

The dichotomy between the glamorous mystique of the cowboy and the stark reality of his harsh

and frequently mundane life is one of the most intriguing aspects of the many historical and

cultural threads relating to cowboys and ranching. What does this mythologizing tell us about our

culture? Are we searching for an American identity, or are these creative and sometimes ludicrous

and humorous interpretations a result of idealized notions? As postmodern life becomes more

complex and technology increasingly pervasive, are we attempting to hearken back to the seeming

simplicity of a pastoral existence that is for the most part gone with the wind? Perhaps the

answer is more simple. Recently a friend emailed that because he feels concern about his adolescent

son’s values and rebelliousness, he is planning a working vacation this summer with his son on their

family ranch on the Montana-North Dakota border, far from urban trappings. He wrote: “Ranch-

ing is a life attached to the land, simple and fundamental. I want him to learn as I did. I never

learned so much as when I was left in charge of all the cattle calving on their own in blizzards with

me to keep the coyotes at bay and help them through birthing. It’s remarkable, the cycle of it all.”

Catalogue Ten, Part Four, The Ranching Catalogue, A-C