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VeronicaX
10-27-2012, 03:54 PM
Okay, so I'm working on a short story; have been for a while, but haven't managed to write it until yesterday. The way I work, I only know bits and pieces here and there, but never more than about 20% of the story before I start writing. Anyway, as I was writing yesterday and "getting to know my character", I realized that he once was a cowboy.

I know very little about cowboys with the exception of that they ride horses and some of them (or all?) work(ed?) up in mountains and such moving cattles etc?

Google is always a friend in need and I've done some research like I always do, but I find this one to be particularly hard. More often than not I find nothing but articles about western movies.

My character is about 80 years old or more now, I presume, and of course retired. Is my imagination totally overboard, or could this be realistic? Were there cowboys around that potential time and if so, where?

I need to learn about this or else I have to find another job for my character. Which is also okay.

PS: This is not a very long story and it's really not a story about his life being a cowboy, it's about he and his wife, but I do want to describe some of their life together also while he was away from home...

PorterStarrByrd
10-27-2012, 04:25 PM
There are still cowboys
an 80 year old now would have been more or less a modern one with a lot more use of motorized vehicles than the 'traditional' cowpoke. Even in the 70's, when I was on a real open range round-up, we didn't have any electricy and a windmill worked our water pump.

It's kind of like camping out in a cabin with the days being spent finding cattle to bring back to cut and brand. With no artificial entertainment we talked and joked. Nobody brought along a guitar and we didn't sit around the fire eating beans and farting. We did roast an antelope on a spit and when we saw a rabbit, we shot it. By the end of the week we had enough for a pretty good meal.

The dangers were mostly rattlesnsnakes, and not may of those, and our own stupidity from time to time. No 'Indians' or 'Rustlers'.

There are places where there is enough of that type of work to make a living.

firedrake
10-27-2012, 04:26 PM
I stumbled on a great book in a second hand book shop a few years ago. It's called 'The Cowboy Way' by David McCumber. He's a journalist and he followed a year on a Montana ranch. It gives a pretty good idea of what a cowboy does in his day to day life.

VeronicaX
10-27-2012, 04:58 PM
There are still cowboys
an 80 year old now would have been more or less a modern one with a lot more use of motorized vehicles than the 'traditional' cowpoke. Even in the 70's, when I was on a real open range round-up, we didn't have any electricy and a windmill worked our water pump.

It's kind of like camping out in a cabin with the days being spent finding cattle to bring back to cut and brand. With no artificial entertainment we talked and joked. Nobody brought along a guitar and we didn't sit around the fire eating beans and farting. We did roast an antelope on a spit and when we saw a rabbit, we shot it. By the end of the week we had enough for a pretty good meal.

The dangers were mostly rattlesnsnakes, and not may of those, and our own stupidity from time to time. No 'Indians' or 'Rustlers'.

There are places where there is enough of that type of work to make a living.

Thank you! I'm more or less on the right track then, that's a relief.

Like I said, the story itself is not really about a cowboy's life out there, but merely just a backstory about who he was and how he and his wife used to live and how they met. Really appreciate this kind of information, that way I can make the story richer. :)

Question: How long is/was it common to be away from home/camping? Also, how old do you have to be to be a cowboy? I've read many answers to this question...


I stumbled on a great book in a second hand book shop a few years ago. It's called 'The Cowboy Way' by David McCumber. He's a journalist and he followed a year on a Montana ranch. It gives a pretty good idea of what a cowboy does in his day to day life.

Thanks! Sounds interesting.

You know, it's strange how it is. I've never been too interested in cowboys before, always disliked western movies and such, but right now I am the exact opposite. Ha!

PorterStarrByrd
10-27-2012, 05:32 PM
Question: How long is/was it common to be away from home/camping? Also, how old do you have to be to be a cowboy? I've read many answers to this question...




Time away depends on the size of the operation. Never having worked any thing except a small family operation, which had us away for a week, with a lot of the family tagging along, I can't help you much. I'd guess the bigger the spread, the less time you'd spend away. Automation would be cheaper than upkeep on remote quarters and a lot of cowboys, I'm sure, wouldn't want a month long camping trip.

Age also plays a part. If the operation is anything sizable, the good old government would be poking their nose in watch to see that child labor laws aren't be broken. In the old days if you were big enough to ride a horse and able to throw a loop (and knew somebody) you could be a cowboy. There were many who started out in even their early teens way back when.

VeronicaX
10-27-2012, 05:55 PM
Time away depends on the size of the operation. Never having worked any thing except a small family operation, which had us away for a week, with a lot of the family tagging along, I can't help you much. I'd guess the bigger the spread, the less time you'd spend away. Automation would be cheaper than upkeep on remote quarters and a lot of cowboys, I'm sure, wouldn't want a month long camping trip.

Age also plays a part. If the operation is anything sizable, the good old government would be poking their nose in watch to see that child labor laws aren't be broken. In the old days if you were big enough to ride a horse and able to throw a loop (and knew somebody) you could be a cowboy. There were many who started out in even their early teens way back when.

Alright, thank you!

I'll try to play around a bit and see how it goes based on the information I have now. Appreciate it :)

KawaiiTimes
10-27-2012, 07:01 PM
My great grandpa who is now in his 90's was a real life cowboy. When he wasn't off finding/branding/cutting cattle he was fixing fences, spent days off traveling to other ranches to collect scrap metal and old batteries to sell to scrap yards and trying to look respectable to the "townies" (his educated family who lived in town).

He usually worked for a flat salary, although there were times when the ranch was on hard times that he worked in trade for housing, food and cigarettes. He recently quit smoking and talks about working for cartons of cigarettes ALL THE TIME. LOL.

VeronicaX
10-27-2012, 08:04 PM
My great grandpa who is now in his 90's was a real life cowboy. When he wasn't off finding/branding/cutting cattle he was fixing fences, spent days off traveling to other ranches to collect scrap metal and old batteries to sell to scrap yards and trying to look respectable to the "townies" (his educated family who lived in town).

He usually worked for a flat salary, although there were times when the ranch was on hard times that he worked in trade for housing, food and cigarettes. He recently quit smoking and talks about working for cartons of cigarettes ALL THE TIME. LOL.

That's amazing! 90s, you say? I can easily change the age of my character to the 90s if necessary. If you got any information about the questions I ask in one of my previous posts, I'd love to hear more! (i'd love to hear more in general, but you know ;) )

For some reason I've become really interested in this now--which is funny since I usually hate history. I know, I should hang my head in shame.

Really appreciate your help! Thank you :)

PS: LOL! at the last part.

backslashbaby
10-27-2012, 10:47 PM
There is an old cowboy here who now runs a little rodeo training camp for kids. Apparently, we have a lot of rodeos nearby, with the popularity upped by our ever-increasing immigrant Latino population :) You see ads for rodeos and horse races in Spanish in the papers all of the time.

So one of my neighbors found out from their farrier about this little weekend rodeo camp, run by the cowboy. Her little boy went there to up his confidence after falling off of his own horse at home. That's all the old cowboy does nowadays: teach little ones how to be cowboys :) If your character is no longer a working cowboy, maybe he still teaches the little ones? Just an idea from real life.

VeronicaX
10-27-2012, 11:44 PM
There is an old cowboy here who now runs a little rodeo training camp for kids. Apparently, we have a lot of rodeos nearby, with the popularity upped by our ever-increasing immigrant Latino population :) You see ads for rodeos and horse races in Spanish in the papers all of the time.

So one of my neighbors found out from their farrier about this little weekend rodeo camp, run by the cowboy. Her little boy went there to up his confidence after falling off of his own horse at home. That's all the old cowboy does nowadays: teach little ones how to be cowboys :) If your character is no longer a working cowboy, maybe he still teaches the little ones? Just an idea from real life.

Awww, that's really charming :)

Actually, to be honest, I really like that idea. Also something I can relate to a bit more as I took horseback riding classes as a young girl--so much fun!

My little idea for a short story has expanded into an idea perhaps more suited for a novel by now, but... I can always do both as they're very different ;)

Thank you!

hillcountryannie
10-28-2012, 03:48 AM
My grandfather was a rancher up until the time he died in 1998, but many of my family members still are. By the time I was born, things had shifted. The horses were really only around for us kids to ride, and moving cattle was done by truck. But there are places (for example in West Texas and South-Central Texas, around where I'm from) where sheep and cattle are still rounded-up by horses, because the land is rugged. In fact, last time I was home I saw a cowboy checking fences on horseback.

Anyway, my grandparents didn't like to travel much. But my Uncle is part-owner of a ranch and him and my aunt go to Colorado for a week or two once a year. His son-in-laws help out while he is away. It would depend if you had hands or not.

Your character would have so much rich background you could write about. Ranching is still dangerous work. My brother builds ranch fencing and he has all kinds of stories about rattlesnakes and mountain lions. There is so much that can go wrong when you're working cattle-- being thrown from your horse, being crushed by an animal (or round bale or tractor), etc. It just takes one slip-up.

Can you tell that ranchers and farmers are my favorite people to write about?

I have this great book called "The Cowboy: His Characteristics, His Equipment, and His Part in the Development of the West." It's probably more info than you need, but for some reason when you know all the background info--even if you don't write about it specifically--it comes out in your piece.

If you have any specific questions, just ask me. I'm writing a novel about a ranching family right now.

VeronicaX
10-28-2012, 04:27 AM
My grandfather was a rancher up until the time he died in 1998, but many of my family members still are. By the time I was born, things had shifted. The horses were really only around for us kids to ride, and moving cattle was done by truck. But there are places (for example in West Texas and South-Central Texas, around where I'm from) where sheep and cattle are still rounded-up by horses, because the land is rugged. In fact, last time I was home I saw a cowboy checking fences on horseback.

Anyway, my grandparents didn't like to travel much. But my Uncle is part-owner of a ranch and him and my aunt go to Colorado for a week or two once a year. His son-in-laws help out while he is away. It would depend if you had hands or not.

Your character would have so much rich background you could write about. Ranching is still dangerous work. My brother builds ranch fencing and he has all kinds of stories about rattlesnakes and mountain lions. There is so much that can go wrong when you're working cattle-- being thrown from your horse, being crushed by an animal (or round bale or tractor), etc. It just takes one slip-up.

Can you tell that ranchers and farmers are my favorite people to write about?

I have this great book called "The Cowboy: His Characteristics, His Equipment, and His Part in the Development of the West." It's probably more info than you need, but for some reason when you know all the background info--even if you don't write about it specifically--it comes out in your piece.

If you have any specific questions, just ask me. I'm writing a novel about a ranching family right now.

Wow, you're pure gold! A big thank you!

This is so much to take in and I plan on writing the story all over again tomorrow (threw the first draft in the bin), so we'll see what I'll use and what I might need more information on. I have so many options in my mind right now, and I must say it's very tempting to go for the novel idea once my collection of short stories is over and done with.

We'll see how it goes. :)

I'll definitely ask you more questions if needed.

Can the book be found as an eBook? I'm interested if so. I tried Kindle, but found only the paperback.

Good luck with your novel! :)

KawaiiTimes
10-28-2012, 05:00 AM
That's amazing! 90s, you say? I can easily change the age of my character to the 90s if necessary. If you got any information about the questions I ask in one of my previous posts, I'd love to hear more! (i'd love to hear more in general, but you know ;) )

For some reason I've become really interested in this now--which is funny since I usually hate history. I know, I should hang my head in shame.

Really appreciate your help! Thank you :)

PS: LOL! at the last part.

I don't know a lot of specifics, but I believe he began cowboy-ing at 12 or 13. He only went to school through the 8th grade. He has done his work both totally manually, and probably didn't get into the modern equipment until he was feeling 'old' in his 40's or so when he had the money to spare on such "frivolities".

He was out for probably 2-3 weeks at a time and then would be off for 2-3 weeks at a time which allowed him to pursue a lot of other endeavors like long haul trucking, building up his own small farm and starting up a machine shop to fix his own equipment.

He has ranched/farmed in Oklahoma, and in central Oregon - both in dry climates on flat-ish land. He is not a fan of mountains or woods because it's harder to keep track of the herd in the rougher terrain.

ETA - he has always been an entrepreneurial spirit and has done a whole lot of everything in his lifetime.

VeronicaX
10-28-2012, 02:32 PM
I don't know a lot of specifics, but I believe he began cowboy-ing at 12 or 13. He only went to school through the 8th grade. He has done his work both totally manually, and probably didn't get into the modern equipment until he was feeling 'old' in his 40's or so when he had the money to spare on such "frivolities".

He was out for probably 2-3 weeks at a time and then would be off for 2-3 weeks at a time which allowed him to pursue a lot of other endeavors like long haul trucking, building up his own small farm and starting up a machine shop to fix his own equipment.

He has ranched/farmed in Oklahoma, and in central Oregon - both in dry climates on flat-ish land. He is not a fan of mountains or woods because it's harder to keep track of the herd in the rougher terrain.

ETA - he has always been an entrepreneurial spirit and has done a whole lot of everything in his lifetime.

Sounds like a very impressive man :) Thank you!

I'll see how I manage to get this on paper...

Snowstorm
10-28-2012, 05:39 PM
There are still real cowboys. We have them constantly around here.

Because we're in the mountains, and this area is majorly federal property, it's almost all open range. In other words the cattle aren't fenced in. A lot of the county roads have cattle guards to help keep them from getting onto a main road. Yes, cattle can be all over the roads.

Our cowboys up here usually are on horseback, since to round up the cattle they are on terrain that a truck or four-wheeler can't go. And yes, here, they still wear chaps and spurs and guns. (God, most of these men are sexy.)

Anyway, if your character used to cowboy, he'd say he "cowboyed" years ago, or "when he cowboyed". Yup, cowboy is a verb.

VeronicaX
10-28-2012, 08:02 PM
There are still real cowboys. We have them constantly around here.

Because we're in the mountains, and this area is majorly federal property, it's almost all open range. In other words the cattle aren't fenced in. A lot of the county roads have cattle guards to help keep them from getting onto a main road. Yes, cattle can be all over the roads.

Our cowboys up here usually are on horseback, since to round up the cattle they are on terrain that a truck or four-wheeler can't go. And yes, here, they still wear chaps and spurs and guns. (God, most of these men are sexy.)

Anyway, if your character used to cowboy, he'd say he "cowboyed" years ago, or "when he cowboyed". Yup, cowboy is a verb.

This is excellent! I'm overwhelmed at how helpful you guys are. Thank you so much!

I've now spent a few hours typing up the basic story. I'm going to let it sit for a little before I start editing and stuff. It's not a very original story, my short stories are hardly ever particularly "new founded" or however you may call it, but I do try to write with emotions and pull the reader in using a storyline that hopefully will catch interest, but we'll see how this turns out. It's also a challenge to somehow "be a 90+ year old guy" (although his spesific age is never mentioned) and try to think how I think they/he'd act and also how things used to be back then.

Ah, let me take a deep breath, lol. Really hope this works out the way it does in my head.

Thank you so much for all the help! :) Really appreciate it!

PS: So it's a cowboy I should be aiming for as a future husband? Hmm. Send me to Wyoming ASAP, please! ;) (Just kidding)

hillcountryannie
10-30-2012, 09:22 PM
Wow, you're pure gold! A big thank you!

This is so much to take in and I plan on writing the story all over again tomorrow (threw the first draft in the bin), so we'll see what I'll use and what I might need more information on. I have so many options in my mind right now, and I must say it's very tempting to go for the novel idea once my collection of short stories is over and done with.

We'll see how it goes. :)

I'll definitely ask you more questions if needed.

Can the book be found as an eBook? I'm interested if so. I tried Kindle, but found only the paperback.

Good luck with your novel! :)

Thanks! So glad I could help. You can message me anytime if you need help. Not for sure if it's available on Kindle, but I got mine at Half Price.

VeronicaX
10-31-2012, 04:20 AM
Thanks! So glad I could help. You can message me anytime if you need help. Not for sure if it's available on Kindle, but I got mine at Half Price.

You're so kind--thank you! :)

So, it's no new masterpiece--yet. Ha!

A recap: I wrote the story (a real struggle!), edited it, and sent it off to my beta reader today. Her reply was: "It's... okay... but it didn't grab me like your other stories do :(". And frankly, I know and agree.

For some reason, I didn't feel very connected to this cowboy character while writing as I usually do with my other characters. I think perhaps I need to alter the story some, the way he's presented and such, so I'm going to let it be for a while and try to get to "know him" better first. We'll see.

The "trademark" in my stories is that they always have a "wow"-ending, something that surprise the reader, but there's no such thing in this one. Yet.

If I do decide to carry on with this story (I'm, to be honest, tempted to give it up... :( I find myself so stuck at the moment), I'll most probably message you with more questions :)

Thank you!

hillcountryannie
10-31-2012, 06:18 AM
Just keep writing about him and it will come together. Maybe watch some movies and read other works to inspire you.

You know what might help-- taking a riding lesson. If you have never ridden a horse, it will help you with the feeling of tacking up and riding, and then there are the smells, that dirt taste in your mouth, etc.

VeronicaX
10-31-2012, 03:59 PM
Just keep writing about him and it will come together. Maybe watch some movies and read other works to inspire you.

You know what might help-- taking a riding lesson. If you have never ridden a horse, it will help you with the feeling of tacking up and riding, and then there are the smells, that dirt taste in your mouth, etc.

I took riding classes as a child, actually :) Lots of fun, but can't say it is very helpful in this regard... I remember I rode without any equipment whatsoever and it hurt me because I felt the horse move underneath me, it's bones rubbing against my bones and all that, lol.

I think I will figure out the story eventually, I think my main problem with it is that it's not really interesting. I have to change that somehow. Just have to figure it out first. ;)

hillcountryannie
11-03-2012, 04:25 AM
. Just have to figure it out first. ;)

I am so there right now with my novel. Just have to keep writing.