The True American Cowboy Essay Research Paper — страница 2

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the country, it must be understood that at this point in history the United States was rebounding from a traumatic Civil War. This left a bitter taste in the mouth of many Americans and hostile feelings towards Negroes were still inundating the country. These conflicts could be seen the West. These feelings were simply blurred by the other hardships that accompanied the settling of the new frontier. African-American men were not simply handed important jobs out of pity, they were there for a reason. While, there were plenty of white men willing to work for the same extremely low wages, the hostile attitudes held by whites were generally overlooked in compensation for the more than adequate work performed by blacks. Black cowboys, whether on ranch or trail, were generally regarded

as good workers, who got along well with others and who took pride in their work. One white Texan, a former cowboy and rancher, even went so far as to say, "There was no better cowman on Earth than the Negro" (Porter, 1971). This testimonial, as well as other claims of near racial equality is directly rebutted by Nat Love in his autobiography, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as Dead Wood Dick. This recollection by a Black cowboy gives a firsthand look at life as an African-American in the West through personal stories and anecdotes. Nat Love claims that although it was probably the most integrated aspect of American culture during the late 1800’s, true injustices arose when the outfit was alone together for weeks at a time. He

alleges, "It was the Negro hand who usually tried out the swimming water when a trailing herd came to a swollen stream – either because of his superior ability or because he was regarded as expendable" (Love, 1968). Although everyone in an outfit had to be a skillful rider and roper, a certain degree of outstandingness was regarded by the title of "bronco buster". Numerous references suggest that Negroes were widely regarded as the largest group of "bronco busters" in the West. Blacks maintained and even advanced a reputation of the most skilled cowboys on the frontier (Porter, 1971). Nat Love was just one of these "bronco busters" and almost admits that he saw the West differently than that experienced by the lower Black cowboys. Love

was a prestigious man, known around the West for his great skills and illustrated lifestyle. He was given the name Dead Wood Dick by the people of Deadwood, South Dakota, because he won their distinguished roping contest (Love, 1968). There were also many other famous Black cowboys that had notable reputations around the West. Some of these men were Ab Blocker’s Frank, Jess Pickett, Isom Dart, Nigger Jim Kelly, and Jim Perry. Although they still faced many prejudices due to their skin color, they lived a life much more exorbitant lifestyles than the average African-American cowboy (Porter, 1971). Although there were many Black cowboys who were epitomized by their peers, there was a much greater number of Negroes who were treated relatively close to their slave relatives.

According to one estimate, 65% of all Negro cowboys worked in the bottom two tiers of rank and 45% of them worked in the bottom level of the outfit occupying the job of wrangler’s assistant. With living on a ranch or in an outfit comes grotesque and inhumane jobs. When it came time to scrub manure, the black man was usually called. When it came time to chop off a calf’s head, the black man was usually called. The Black cowboys were made to do the jobs that no one else would do. They were the cleaners of everything, they were the last to eat (if at all), they had responsibilities of far less stature than those who were of equal talent but had white skin. However, this was only one sector of black life in the West. They were still respected, and most of the time they were

expecting the harsh treatment due to the fact that they were used to much more severe treatment (Porter, 1971). Blacks had another important role in the West, aside from either being a "bronco buster", a helpful hand, or a wrangler’s assistant. High in the hierarchy of cow-country employees was the ranch or trail cook, who ranked next to the foreman or trail boss. The cook ruled supreme over an area of sixty feet around the chuckwagon when an outfit was in camp. In addition to having to be able to prepare a meal for twelve hungry men in a blizzard, cloudburst, or high winds, the cook had to be skilled in muleskinning and capable of driving two or three yoke of oxen attached to a chuckwagon over treacherous terrain or sometimes even through flooded rivers. The cook had