Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

The Arizona Cowboy

The word usage “cowboy” was not widespread in the press until it began to be used to describe the “cowboys” of Arizona. Although the word was always associated with cattle wrangling, during the late 1870s and early 1880s, cattle wranglers who were willing to cross the line to robbery and rustling began to formally self-describe themselves as “cowboys,” which was picked up by the Western press. In Arizona, they often wore red bandanas as an informal mark of membership. Johnny Ringo, before his suicide, was often referred to as the “King of the Cowboys.”

The Arizona Cowboy

“…The cowboy is a cross between a vaquero and a highwayman, which intensifies the worst qualities of each type. He is given to drink and to quarreling. He is hostile, on general principles, to everybody more civilized than himself. He detests ‘boiled shirts’ and ‘plug’ hats, and he will do the incautious wearers of those garments whatever injury he may. He is a thief as well as a murderer, and thinks nothing of stopping stages and stealing cattle.”

“As the cowboys are numerous, it is to be feared that they will oppose a prolonged and measurably successful resistance to the spasmodic raids upon them, and that they will render life on the frontier equally exciting and precarious for some time to come. The status they occupy in the general scheme of American civilization may be shown by an illustration When, in the West Indies, the sugar cane is being cut, it is the practice to leave a patch of cane in the middle of the field. The reason is that as the cutting proceeds all the venomous reptiles that inhabit the cane retire before the hands until they reach the center. Thus, there is a little patch which at last becomes full of them, and that patch is set on fire and burned. Now the cowboys are the venomous creatures which have been driven from both sides towards this patch of country by the advance of civilization, and when their habitat is reached it is naturally found to be very disagreeable. They will have to make way for settlement and honest industry, however, even if the last man among them dies in his boots.”

The Daily Record-Union, June 17, 1881

See Also:

Death of Johnny Ringo – King of the Cowboys
Shootout at the O. K. Corral — 133 Years Ago Today

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