Cowboys Never Change

By: Bob Welch

Photo courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Erwin E. Smith Collection

Around 1825, a French missionary named Abbe Domenech visited present-day Texas. In 1858, his narrative of the trip, Missionary Adventures in Texas and Mexico was published.

His work is quoted in a 1904 book called Prose and Poetry of the Live Stock Industry, a comprehensive work on all the ranch-related doins of the time. Over 750 oversized pages, the book outlines everything from ancient cattle raising techniques to the old-time trail drives to the eventual settlement of the West. If you can find the book, it’s worth the money—especially if you’re a student of this time and region of our country’s history.

What jumped off the page to me, though, was a quote from Domenech about the typical Texas-Mexican stockman of the era and the similarities to the typical ranch cowboy of today, some 200 years later.

Here’s what he said:

“When the ranchero is not either resting or amusing himself he mounts his horse and canters over the plains and through the woods to see his herds, to visit his friends, to buy provisions, or assist at a feast, a baptism, a marriage, or join in the fandango; but the ranchero never walks. Had he only half a mile to go, he does so on horseback. His horse, of which he is very proud, is his inseparable companion. He is content with a wretched hut for his residence, while he decorates his saddle and bridle with gold and silver ornaments. At his home, he is all filth; mounted on his horse he wears the gayest attire.”

Doesn’t sound too different from the cowboys I know today. They’re proud of their horse, they don’t like to walk anywhere they can ride, and their gear is adorned by whoever the popular silversmith of the day is. They might drive their truck to the fandango rather than ride their horse, but as for their homes, what Mr. Domenech describes sounds like more than a couple of the bunkhouses I’ve seen.

Chris LeDoux sang a song called “Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy.” In it, the lyrics are: “Don’t even start to think you’re gonna change him; You’d be better off to try and rope the wind; What you see is what he’s got; And he can’t be what he’s not…”

I suppose considering the 200 years worth of evidence we have—from a French missionary to a world champion bareback rider—we can be pretty confident the cowboy will never die!

Courtesy of WRCA

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