I have been reading a book called “Texas Cowboys.” This has brought my attention to the fact that in the mid to late 1800s, which was the time period where the American cowboy was instrumental in writing American history.
The War of Northern Aggression had ended and as the soldiers returned to their homes in Texas, they found big change. Some homes were no more, those that survived were run down, and unbranded cattle were plentiful. The people of the northeast were clamoring for beef and the resilient Texians were up to the challenge. Enterprising leaders put to gather great herds to be driven to the railheads in Kansas and shipped to processing plants in Chicago to satisfy the northern demand. But it took men to drive the cattle to the railheads, thus the American cowboy was born.
Many of these cowboys were young boys only 8 to 10 years old. With the war taking many of the young men, the very young boys were the ones that were left that would in many instances, be boys that were the man of the house and had the responsibility of providing for their family.
As I read about the lives of these Texas cowboys, I come to the realization that boys grew up to be men quicker in those times that they do on more modern times.
I expect many of these boys received similar advice to what Will Crittendon heard from his father, “Well Son, be a man wherever you go and you’ll always end up right by doing so.”
Necessity proved to be the catalyst that helped these young boys grow up quick. They faced the world experiencing hardships such as leaving home to a life that demanded skills that could only be learned on the job. And with the job came unexpected happenings such as weather, swollen rivers, stampedes, rustlers, and hostile Indians. And at the end of the trail, they faced the same problems that entrap much older men such as whisky, gambling, and ladies of the night. Young boys grew up quick!
They had opportunities to meet and sometimes work for such notables as Chisum, Goodnight, King, Slaughter, Swenson, Waggoner, and Burnett. They often met or worked side by side with outlaws like Allison, Billy the Kid, and Jesse James.
I think back to 1952 when I was 10 years old. We would ride to Carl Mitchell’s general store in the village of Alexander, Texas to get something on Mom’s grocery list and a cold soda pop.
Many times we would encounter an old gentleman. In his younger years, he was one of those cowboys. He would always say, “How you girls doing?” So we naturally called him “Old Woman.”
If I had just had sense enough to ask him about his life story, what a story he might have had. He might have been a notable character of history. But, at age 10, I was not grown-up! Today, 8 to 10 year old boys are but children with their childish ways, but in the 1800s they grew up quick! My poem honors yesteryears cowboy.
Life was tough way back then,
What with the war an’ all,
Young boys soon turned into men
When the wolf came to call.
Those of age rode off to war,
Hard on those left behind,
To keep the wolf from the door,
Of which they were resigned.
Young boys of eight or nine,
Head of the family now,
Faced their new task just fine
No quit would be their vow!
They grew up fast an’ strong,
Tho times was often hard,
Mamas gave them prayer an’ song,
Taught ‘em about the Lord.
Most things was learned day to day’
‘Bout weather, cows, an’ their hoss,
Ridin’ became their play,
Learned to give that rope a toss.
They learned of western way,
The dealin’s of a man,
Helpin’ neighbors to stay,
An’ stickin’ with the plan.
They studied on the weather,
The ways it touched their life,
In drought or flood, what ever
Seems it always brought strife.
The ways to turn a dollar,
Fill the table with food,
Pert near took a scholar,
This life that they pursued.
But they were up to the task,
An’ faced life with Texas pride,
No quarter would they ask,
They would not be denied!
They caught the mustang bold,
They roped the Longhorn steer
They fought the heat an’ cold,
An’ they felt the grip of fear.
They rode to head the stompede,
As lightnin’ flicked the sky,
Put their faith in trusted steed,
As o’er the range they’d fly.
They grew tough in a Texas way,
Ridin’ the bronc, herdin’ the steer,
Keepin’ the wolf at bay,
They were no quit an’ no fear!
Tough times would come an’ go,
Their mettle would be tried,
Into men they would grow,
They lived Texas Cowboy Pride!
God bless each of you and God Bless America!