Cowboys became a part of American history in a short period of time, between 1865 and 1885, when they were employed by ranch-owners to look after their cattle. The cowboys rounded up the cattle, protected them from cattle thieves, branded them and guided them on routes across the open country. Cowboys worked, ate and slept on the trail, with their constant companions, the horses. The day started before sunrise and ended eighteen hours later. Life was certainly hard, and to survive this hard life the cowboy developed a whole variety of skills and a distinctive appearance.
It’s impossible to say if all cowboys were as handsome or as wild as their image in the movies, but they certainly didn’t fight as many Indians or kill as many bad guys as they did on the screen. Their clothes however do fit the legend. The ten-gallon hat, so called because of its large size (ten gallons is more than 20 litres) protected the cowboy from the sun and the rain. The tight leather trousers protected his legs from insects and a handkerchief protected his face from the dust.
Cowboys had to be strong. They also needed to be good at riding and shooting. Food was pretty basic — beans, coffee and dried pork. The long, boring journeys of eighteen hours inspired songs, poetry and stories — these were the only forms of entertainment on the trail.
The life of the cowboy developed strong feeling of community and family life — neighbours needed to help neighbours to survive the bad conditions of life on the trail and on the ranch. The spirit of the cowboy has survived and is still admired today.
These days cowboys still work with cattle in the countryside which has looked the same for hundreds of years. Large companies have replaced small ranches, modem machinery does the job quicker, and the cowboys spend more time in a pick-up truck than on a horse. These days, they do things the old way for enjoyment There are many ranches that provide visitors with a taste of the old ranch and cowboy life, for a price. You can take wagon tours, mend fences, or sit on the porch by the pool during your stay on the ranch.
The first rodeo was held in 1872, and they are still being held today. Cowboys showed off their skills by taking part in the competition which included riding, roping and wrestling cattle. It remains popular today with competitors coming from all walks of life, all dressed in traditional cowboy gear. This is perhaps the easiest way to see traditional cowboy skills in action, or even try them out yourself!
trail — путь, тропа
ranch-owner — владелец ранчо (очень большой фермы, на которой выращивается скот)
cattle — скот
to round up — загонять
thief — вор
thieves — вор
theft — кража
to brand — зд. ставить клеймо
route — путь, маршрут
distinctive — отличительный
to fit — подходить, соответствовать
leather — кожа, кожаный
insect — насекомое
beans — бобы
pork — свинина
to inspire — вдохновлять
entertainment — развлечение
to entertain — развлекать, смешить
to mend — чинить, ремонтировать
rodeo — родео
rope — веревка
roping — перетягивание каната
wrestling — борьба
gear — разг. одежда