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Cowboys first appeared in Nebraska on cattle drives from Texas, accompanying the vast herds to northern railheads such as Schuyler and Ogallala beginning in the 1860s. Their activities and life style, whether on the trail or later on Nebraska ranches, inspired countless books, songs, and films.

Colorful accounts of cowboy behavior are found in early newspapers. The Nebraska State Journal of May 30, 1883, noted a recent incident in Valentine in which a group of cowboy pranksters tried to convince a tenderfoot that he had murdered one of their group, and then chased him while firing their revolvers. However, working cowboys did not often express themselves in print. The Sidney Telegraph of January 6, 1877, included a humorous expression of cowboy opinion by "A.J.W." titled "The Cow Boy, He Makes Some Remarks Pungent."

"Say, you fellows of the Sidney Telegraph, just stop in your mad career and quit saying that we cow boys are reckless just because duty compels us to be ever on the alert with pistol, '44's' and lassoes to protect our interests, including ourselves. Now, a cow boy is a man, the first thing, you know, and he's peculiar. When you meet him you will find all his worse points on top, and open for inspection. Among the articles in sight will be his generosity and indifference to the requirements of exacting metropolitan conventionalities. We poor devils can't paint up like the rest of you; don't run in debt, haven't time to fool with glossy titles, nor study small talk. I only wish some of the high-toned roosters who foist [hoist?] themselves on a pair of fleas legs and look down with contempt on the cow boys could be driven into taking part in a cattle stampede when the wind and rain and cattle are each running at the rate of forty miles an hour. Then we would see who the men were. Such times develops great and little men very rapidly. Concludingly, give the cow boy a show, and remember that under a rough garb you may find humanity of the highest and truest type."

(April 1999)


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Last updated 27 September 2005

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