Monday, April 16, 2012

Aw, Those Cowboys

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."
~Louis L’Amour


Jacquie Rogers said...

Awesome excerpt, Lauri. I think the trail drives were fascinating because they were a whole lot more complex than it would seem. And yet whole industries grew around the simple act of driving a herd from one spot to another. Who knew?

Caroline Clemmons said...

Great post. I love the quote from Louis L'Amour, too. You always post such interesting information and I appreciate benefitting from your research.

Paty Jager said...

Great info and a wonderful excerpt!

D'Ann said...

Good post!

I love the John Wayne movie, The Cowboys! I have always wanted to be on a trail drive. The closest I've been is moving cows to summer pasture.

Devon Matthews said...

Great post, Lauri! The timing of the railroads going through Texas and the subsequent short drives to deliver a herd is something I'm dealing with right now in my wip. Thanks for the great info! Best of luck with your newest Undone!

Maggie said...

Great post, Lauri! I've been a fan since I read A Wife for Big John.

Ciara Gold said...

Fun post, Lauri. I'm actually dealing with a cattle drive right now with one of my wips so I'll add this info to the rest of my research.

Lauri said...

Thanks, Jacquie. I agree, they were much more complex, and changed the nation in so many ways!

I love Louie's comment, too, Caroline!

Hey, Paty! Thanks for commenting!

I love, love, the movie The Cowboys! One of my all time favs, but I can't watch the scene when the one boy loses his glasses. ;)

Thanks, Devon! Good luck with the WIP!

Thanks, Maggie! A Wife for Big John will always hold a special place in my heart! My father helped me with research on that book.

Lauri said...

Thanks, Ciara! Good luck with the WIP!

Tanya Hanson said...

Many of my "heroes" are point riders LOL. I love learning about the drives, and this is a terrific post, Lauri. Congrats on the new release! xoxox

Lauri said...

Thanks, Tanya. Point riders make good heroes. LOL

Unknown said...

Loved your post. I'm really digging all this research information gathered in one place. Thanks for sharing. The excerpt wowed me. :)

mesadallas said...

Some people want to climb Mountains. I've always had a secret yearning to go on a cattle drive.When I say this my husband just rolls his eyes and is quick to tell me about how your eyes burn from the dust, how you can't breathe from the dust, and how you are covered in a film of dust and then goes on about how your butt feels after being in a saddle for 10-12 straight hours. He used to hire himself out to the ranchers in Utah when they needed extra hands on their spring and fall roundups so he speaks from experience.

Here in Arizona some of the ranchers have learned to make extra money by allowing drugstore cowboys and cowgirls to go on a cattle drive- like in "City Slickers." I once aproached my husband with this idea telling him it would be "$800.00 per person for a three day drive. He asked, "Do they pay more for experienced hands that know what they are doing?" I said, "No, they don't pay us we pay them." I can't repeat everything he said in his answer but the bottom line was that I had absolutely lost my mind if I thought he would actually pay someone over a thousand dollars to let him work his a$$ off for three days.

Lauri said...

Thanks, Ginger. I agree, I love this Cowboy Kisses blog and all the info in one spot!

Lauri said...

Mesadallas, I am laughing out loud at your hubby's thoughts, and his 'Do they pay more for experienced hands'... He and mine think a lot alike.

Ellen O’Connell said...

Thanks from me too, Lauri - and everyone who's posted so far. You're highlighting research done and sparking great ideas.

Count me as another one you had laughing out loud, mesadallas, or at least your husband did. I'm with him. When I was young enough to do it at all, I still wouldn't have spent 10 hours a day in the saddle unless someone paid ME, and I can't even go back in my mind and decide how much it would have taken.

mesadallas said...

Yes, he grew up on a 300 acre ranch in Utah.(His name is Dallas) Mostly fruit, but also a small herd of cattle.Then the family went into dairy farming and had 60 milk cows. He was also a wrangler for three years taking care of 21 polo horses. Our short conversations regarding cattle drives usually begin around watching a western that includes herding cattle and then me making a comment about how much I would love to do that. I'm then usually filled in about the differences between movie cattle drives and reality and what the movies don't include such as red, burning eyes, raw throats, your nose and throat filled with dust, allergy problems, not being able to move the next day after a sleepless night with overworked muscles...... ect.

Lauri said...

You're welcome, Ellen. :)

Mesadallas, my son's name is Dallas. :) Hubby and I grew up with horses, though our kid's are more 'city slickers'.

Lyn Horner said...

Lauri, what a great post! I can see you've done your research about cattle drives. Me too. An iconic drive plays a major role in my book, Dashing Druid, and I spent many an hour digging up details. One thing I learned, the big drives often had a second wagon called the "hoodlum" wagon, where the drovers kept their bed rolls. The nighthawk, usually a young teen, drove the hoodlum wagon, while the cook drove the chuck wagon. The nighthawk also guarded the remuda at night. He was lucky to grab a few hours sleep when Cookie stopped to prepare supper.

Love your excerpt! Jake is a charming devil!

Lauri said...

Thanks, Lyn. Yes, I've read about 'hoodlum' wagons. ;) I think Jake is pretty charming, too. :)

mesadallas said...

Lauri- that's so cool to hear of another Dallas! I just love that name- and there really aren't that many out there.

My husband tried hard to get me to name our sons Houston and Austin. Years later I had a good chuckle when I read a western romance trilogy (Lorraine Heath I think)about three brothers named Dallas, Houston, and Austin.