What’s more uniquely American than the American Cowboy? Try to think of anything that defines this country more than punchin’ cows across northern Texas into places like Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado and Nebraska carrying a six-shooter and a Winchester. The American Cowboy is the iconic image of this country throughout the world. Go to any other country, and I mean ANY other country and ask what is known about 19th century American history. Yep, it’s the cowboy. Romanticized on stage, screen and film.
But was the “cowboy” always a respected member of the cattle drive? Hardly; you can thank Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West Show and Hollywood for changing the term into something romantic and heroic. Truth is that the term cowboy was used as a derogatory term in 2 different ways.
1st: like a shepard in the bible, cattle drivers were on the bottom of social rung. Dirty, poor, ruffian and couldn’t get any other job.
2nd: cowboy was often used to describe a troublemaker, outlaw or thief. In Tombstone the McLaury’s and Clantons were cattle theives and therefore referred to as “cowboys”.
So, Yipee Ki Yo Ki Yay - get along little dogie.