The American Cowboy came about after the Civil War, when the shortage of beef in the northern states gave some enterprising southerners, mainly Texans, the idea of driving their cattle north. Their plan was to drive their cattle to the closest railroads—Kansas. (Texas cattle drives had started before the war, but on a smaller scale and stopped completely during the war since there was no profit in it.)
The cattle drives flourished for about twenty years, 1866-1885, and a cowboy was considered to be anyone with ‘guts and a gun’. Most of the men on the cattle drives were young, late teens or early twenties, and for driving 1,000-5,000 cows over 350 miles of rough, untamed territory for 3-6 months, the cowboy was paid about $25 plus food, per month. Once the cows were delivered they were allowed a few days to wind down, before the shipping started, and the town folks were happy to relieve the cowboys of their hard earned money.
On the trail, each cowboy had 5-10 horses to ride on a rotating basis. The second highest paid man on the trial was the cook. A good cook would attract the best cowboys. The cook was also the doctor, and carried all the bed rolls in the chuck wagon. (Cowboys didn’t carry them on their saddles while on the drive.) Bed rolls consisted of a canvas tarp and a blanket or quilt. The boys kept all their valuables in their rolls, i.e. money, extra clothes, personal possessions, and they put a lot of faith in the cook to guard their treasures. The standard fare for all meals was beans, rice, and coffee. Canned goods were added in the later years.
In the 1880’s the cowboys started to show off their daily skills at informal fairs and celebrations at the end of the drives, often demonstrating calf roping, steer wrestling, and bronc riding, thus the sport of rodeo developed.
Texas cattle often carried ticks that spread Texas fever among the local cattle, and in 1885 an epidemic of splenic fever in longhorns forced many a drive to turn around at the Kansas border and head back south. The stricter quarantine laws along with the low beef prices and the lack of available rangeland to drive through, as well as the fact rail lines had finally reached Texas all played a role in bringing the cattle drives to a halt.
But the cowboy lived on, performing a multitude of duties in winning the west. There is something about those men—rustic, rugged, risky, yet charismatic and downright sexy—that capture women’s hearts. A man we know will be there when needed, whether it’s three in the morning or three in the afternoon.
I’ll leave you with a ‘cowboy kiss’ scene from my next book to be released on May 1st from Harlequin, The Sheriff’s Last Gamble.
An actress, she was. Her stature was perfect, her face expressionless, but Jake saw through it as if she were bluffing with nothing but an eight high in her hand. He was on to her, on to her good, and no one, not even an adorable little thoroughbred, was going to best him. Two could play at this game. Excitement zipped through his veins. A gambler never lost the thrill, and he was a gambler, through and through.
“What’s the other part, Stacy?” he asked again, this time low and slow, while tilting his head the other way. She followed the movement, her eyes on his lips. Moving in slowly, keeping her attention on his mouth, he waited until his lips almost touched hers before saying, “It’s me, isn’t it?”
Her denial, for he was sure that’s what it started as, turned into a moan that made his chest rumble when their lips met. The kiss, the experience, went beyond his imagination, almost as if he’d stepped over an unforeseen ledge. This little thoroughbred wasn’t any shyer at kissing than she was at gambling, and that had his senses reeling.
Jake only pulled away when he needed air—briefly, until her smoldering eyes and an unabashed grin had him taking her lips again. Their mouths made a perfect pair, and their tongues twisted and turned with each other as if caught in a tiny tornado.
His hands slid up and down her back, resting to span her slender waist. Every touch heated his palms, making them throb for more, and had him visualizing the alabaster skin beneath her clothes that he wanted to taste from head to toe and everywhere in between.
When the kiss ended, after a very long time and by some sort of mutual agreement, Jake was envisioning doing so many things to her delectable body he barely knew where he was. But he was supposed to be the one seducing her into submission. Into admitting she was playing a very dangerous game. She needed to understand he wouldn’t become the prize in any competition. Instead, he felt as if he’d just laid a bet on a hand that didn’t even hold a pair of deuces.
Face flushed, she curled her lips into the sweetest smile he’d ever seen. “My, my, Sheriff McCrery, you are a magnificent kisser.”
“Really?” Drawing up an indifferent tone and expression, he said, “I can’t say the same about you.”
“Yes, I’ve unquestionably met better kissers than you.”
He lifted a brow.
Her eyes narrowed and she grabbed the front of his shirt with all the strength of a cowpuncher, and this time she didn’t even let him come up for air, nor did she stop at kissing. Dexterous little fingers unfastened the buttons of his shirt with the speed of a hummingbird’s wings, and when her hands met his skin, he dug his heels into the floor.
"There's a little cowboy in all of us, a little frontier."