Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ogallala Bay Rum

by Shanna Hatfield

From 1870-1885 Ogallala, Nebraska, was the destination of countless cowboys driving cattle north from Texas to the railhead located in the small town.

As early as the 1830s and 1840s, Texans had driven cattle to potential markets in the east and north. After the Civil War ended, the arrival of railroads across the plains and a surplus of cattle combined to create an interesting business enterprise.

Texan cattlemen drove their rangy, sometimes hard too handle stock to the railhead in long trail drives that soon became the stuff of legend.

The first cowboys to drive cattle along the trail were known to be a wild, reckless bunch with homemade saddles and clothing.

 As the cattle business grew, cowboys took more pride in their appearance. By the early 1880s, many cowboys would spend a significant portion of his pay on his clothing, starting with custom boots and sliver spurs and ended with a  Stetson hat on his head.

Yet, out on the trail, the cowboys worked long, hard, monotonous hours. There wasn't any shortage of ways for them to die: exposure to the elements, dragged to death by a rogue animal, struck by lightening, killed by Indians, or drowning in a river.

Those who survived the journey were eager to reach the railhead in Ogallala.

Part of the year, life in Ogallala was reportedly “a dull, dreary existence in a drab, unpainted, and unpromising little village.” However, during the months when the trail herders arrived in town and local ranchers rounded up cattle, saloons burst with gamblers and soiled doves.

Filthy after months on the trail, one of the first stops for the cowboys was a barbershop for a bath, shave and haircut. After being splashed (often quite liberally) with the barber's own special mix of Bay Rum, the cowboy was ready to hit the saloon and charm the ladies.

I've often wondered about Ogallala Bay Rum - what it smelled like.  One day, I happened to see an advertisement in a catalog promoting "Genuine Ogallala Bay Rum." It took me all of five seconds to decide to order a bottle.

Made by the Genuine Ogallala Bay Rum Toiletry Co., right in Ogallala, Neb., the family-run business recreates the scent that was so popular with those cowboys. They offer soap, after shave and cologne.

Excited when my cobalt blue bottle of cologne arrived, I opened the top and inhaled the scent of clove, sage and mint. While it isn't a scent Captain Cavedweller would wear, I could see why the girls back in the legendary days of trail drives welcomed those cowboys after they paid the barber a visit.


USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield writes character-driven romances with relatable heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”
      Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, this hopeless romantic is out to make it happen, one story at a time. When she isn’t writing or indulging in chocolate (dark and decadent, please), Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.

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Kaye Spencer said...

I went on an Internet cologne research excursion a few years ago to find out what one of my cowboy heroes would smell like when he was all fancied-up. I ordered a few different brands of cologne. I still have the Bay Rum. Your post prompted me to open up the ziplock baggie that I keep the bottles in. WOW! It was potent. *grin* I'm sad I can't include an image of my bottles in this comment box. They are plastic with dark tan/light brown writing, and they are labeled Genuine Ogallala Bay Rum cologne and skin toner.

Oh, and my character was definitely a Bay Rum guy. *wink*

Thanks for taking me on a walk down an aromatic memory lane.

Zina Abbott Author said...

Thanks, Shanna. That is one of those little details that makes a story sound like the real thing.

Shanna Hatfield said...

You are welcome, Kaye! Thanks for stopping by the blog. The scent is a little stronger than my guy (and me) like, but I could see how it would appeal if you're in a room full of dirty sweaty men who haven't bathed for a while. ;)

And thank you, Zina! Yes, all those little details do make a story more realistic.