Synopses & Reviews
People throughout the world thrill to stories of galloping hooves, stampeding cattle, blazing gunfights, and other elements of cowboy lore, but few know what life was actually like for the working cowboy. This engrossing book by Richard W. Slatta explores the reality of cowboy life in the United States, Canada, and Spanish America, from the cowboy's beginnings as a wild-cattle hunter to his decline in the early twentieth century. Lavishly illustrated with photographs, artworks, and posters, Cowboys of the Americas evokes the colorful world of North and South American cowboys in pictures and words. Quoting extensively from first-hand descriptions of cowboy and ranch life, Slatta provides fascinating vignettes of the cowboy in the American and Canadian West, as well as of Hawaii's paniolo, Mexico's vaquero, Venezuela's llanero, Chile's huaso, and Argentina's gaucho. Slatta compares the appearance, dress, character, and activities of these cowboys, demonstrating that Spanish influence was pervasive in all open-range cattle frontiers of North and South America. He takes the reader along with the cowboy to roundups and trail drives, horse races, campfires, saloons, and brothels. He reveals the harsh reality of frontier racial conflict and Indian wars. And he discusses the changes that overtook the cowboy as farmers, immigrants, and technology pushed across the plains, transforming the old way of life in the saddle and leaving the cowboy image alive only in myth and popular culture. Slatta points out that this legacy of the cowboys has not been unimportant, however. In Argentina and Uruguay, for example, the once maligned gaucho was rehabilitated by the elite as a symbolic weapon against the perceived threat from urban immigrant masses. And in the United States, rodeos, Wild West shows, novels, toys, advertising, films, and television have transformed public perception of the cowboy from an uncouth rowdy to a national hero, so that identification with the cowboy helped Ronald Reagan become one of America's most popular chief executives.