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Paul Horgan On the Appearance of Cowboys

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Paul Horgan wrote:


"In any group of nineteenth century cow boys, more were bearded than clean-shaven. Their costumes were much alike, though with individual variations. But all their garments were "coarse and substantial, few in number and often of the gaudy pattern." The cow boy wore a wide-brimmed hat with its crown dented into a pyramid or flattened. If the brim in front was sometimes turned up at the face, it could be turned down to protect him from the pressing light of the sky under which he spent all day. Around his neck he wore a bandana of tough silk. It served many purposes. Tied over his face it filtered dust before his breath. It served to blindfold a calf or tie its legs. It was a towel, a napkin, a bandage, a handkerchief, or simply an ornament.

His shirt was of stout cotton flannel, in a bright color or loud design of checks or stripes or plaids. Over it he sometimes wore a cloth or leather vest but rarely a jacket. His trousers were either of heavy denim, dyed dark blue, sewn with coarse yellow thread, and reinforced at points of great wear with copper rivets; or were of odd colors and materials, mostly dark, that could stand tough use. They fitted tightly. The trouser legs were stuffed into boots that reached almost to the knee. At work, the cow boy often wore leggings of thick cowhide. They were made after the pattern of Indian leggings of thick cowhide - two long robes, with wide flaps at each side cut into fringes or studded with silver disks that reached from ankle to groin, and were tied to a belt as though to the string of a breechclout. Their purpose was to shield him against thorns in the brush he rode through, and the violent rub of haired animal hides, and the bum of rope when he pulled it against his leg as he turned his horse to control a lasso'd creature.

On his boots he wore large spurs, of silver or iron. He wore gloves to work in, and around his fight hips he wore a cartridge belt from which depended his pistol - most often a Colt's single-action, .45 caliber revolver called the Peacemaker. He had no change of clothing. He went unwashed and unbathed unless he camped by a stream or pond. "I wash," he said in his multiple anonymity: "I wash in a pool and wipe on a sack, I carry my wardrobe all on my back."


----- Paul Horgan, Great River, Vol. II, 1954 

Beauty is only skin deep but Texas is to the bone.

Posted : 12th February 2020 6:10 pm