It would be a gross understatement to claim films would be as entertaining as those we've watched if cowboys were portrayed as they really were. The 'heyday' of the cowboy lasted only about two decades, from 1865-1885, and the highest estimate of actual cowpokes was around 40,000.
Although the cowboy maintains an heroic image, he was actually an overworked laborer, riding miles and miles while fighting the elements.
Being a cowboy was not a glamorous profession, and very few made it a permanent career because of the hardships and physical exertions that prevented older men from continuing to perform the associated tasks.The golden age of the American cowboy ended in the mid-1880s because of the failing cattle market prices.
One thing generally correct in western films was the attire: leather chaps to protect against thorny brush, a plainsman style hat with a low crown set against the wind, a scarf or bandana to discourage inhaling dust, spurs to aid in directing one's mount, and heavy gloves to combat the rawhide ropes frequently used. I'm pretty sure that few of them smelled like Old Spice since days, sometimes, even months passed between a change of clothing or a much-needed bath.
|Necessities of a Cowboy|
So, when you read the heroine's description: "He smelled of smoke and leather" remember a real cowboy probably just smelled really, really bad. *lol*
Again, my appreciation to William C. Davis for allowing me the continued pleasure of a well-researched and helpful publication, The American Frontier. He has helped me maintain my credibility as a western author, and I learn something every time I research a chapter. For information on how to get your own copy, I include the link on Amazon. Oh, and just for the record, I took pictures of his pictures to emphasize my post. You can probably tell my the flash on the cowboys. *smile*