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Gentleman's Philosophy

Lessons in Manliness from the Cowboys

Howdy gents, it’s Max from the Young Gentleman’s Guide here! So, despite all the myths about cowboys that have propped up over the decades thanks mostly to Hollywood, there’s still a multitude of things that the cowboys of the frontier can teach young gentlemen of today. It was far from an easy or idyllic living, but the harsh reality that the cowboy life entailed came with quite a few life lessons that any man can take to heart. So without any further ado, let’s get started!

1. Being Prepared for Anything

It was no secret then and it’s no secret now that the American frontier is not quite the safest place for humans. As dangerous as it might be now, it would have been even worse in the 19th century before many of the miracles of the modern world. Between massive dust clouds and storms during the dry season, harsh storms during the winter months, the threat of cattle rustlers, attacking Natives, and a multitude of predatory/venomous animals prowling around, it would seem that everything was working against the cowboys just trying to make it from point A to point B. As a result of this, cowboys had to learn to protect themselves from the elements while also working with limited supplies. Whether this meant taking the right kinds of firearms to protect against the aforementioned predators and cattle rustlers, cooking meals for a crowd with limited ingredients, or wearing clothes specifically designed to protect against the elements. Such articles of clothing included chaps worn over the pants to protect cowboys’ legs and pants from the brush, a bandana to be pulled over the cowboys’ faces in the case of a massive dust cloud being kicked up, the thick leather boots to protect against venomous snakes, and even the stereotypical wide-brimmed hat to protect against the unforgiving sun (this could even include a sombrero). No matter what the dilemma or situation, cowboys always had the right tool for the job.

2. Working with what you have

Like I mentioned before, cowboys didn’t have much in the way of trail resources; they only had what they could take with them for one trip. As a result of this, cowboys had to learn to be resourceful and frugal with what they had. One thing that this meant was working with simple ingredients while cooking. Ingredients carried on chuck wagons mostly consisted of beef, bacon, beans, bread and coffee. On top of this, cowboys also believed in the value of temperance; they ate until they were full, but they didn’t overindulge themselves. The reason for this is because they didn’t want to risk getting an upset stomach since they would have to spend most of their time on horseback. Cowboys’ frugality didn’t just start and end with their diet, however. Being a cowboy was a modest living at the time, but many cowboys didn’t squander their money on frivolous things. More often than not, cowboys hired by private ranchers would save their money so that they could buy land and cattle of their own. In today’s increasingly materialistic world, a lesson in frugality and resourcefulness from the cowboys of old may be what we all need right now.

3. Camaraderie and teamwork

It’s no surprise that transporting herds of cattle across thousands of miles of an unforgiving wilderness would be a lonely existence if someone was traveling solo. This is why cowboys, for the most part, not only traveled in groups, but also had an established hierarchy among said groups. A cowpoke travelling solo or an unorganized group of cattle herders were easy targets for cattle rustlers and groups of attacking Natives, not to mention the entire ecosystem of predatory animals prowling on the frontier. Among these groups of cowboys, there would be a trail boss, responsible for planning out the route ahead of time as well as the distance that would be covered that day, and an essential second-in-command, or segundo as he was usually called. Among them would also be a cook, or “cookie”, as he would be colloquially be called, whose job was self-explanatory. Having these established ranks and roles among cowboys allowed them to work together more easily and protect each other from any of the dangers that the frontier posed to them. Alongside this emphasis on teamwork, cowboys also held friendship and camaraderie in very high regard. Whether it was telling stories and playing music among other cowboys around the campfire, telling stories to the cattle themselves while on patrol, or bonding with their horses, cowboys treated every member of the group like family, which made them all the more effective when working as a team. They knew that a friendly team was a strong one, and they took that philosophy to the bank.

So there it is! There are three (3) lessons that the cowboys of the past can teach young gentlemen today. Hopefully I’ve done a good job separating the truth from the Hollywood myths, and if you’d like some more info, feel free to check out my sources linked below. In any case, I hope you enjoyed reading today’s post. Please be sure to share the post, follow the blog, and follow The Young Gentleman’s Guide on Facebook and Instagram. And on that note, this is Max from The Young Gentleman’s Guide, and I’ll see you next time!

Sources:

https://www.history.com/topics/westward-expansion/cowboys#section_5

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