Texas Matters: Behind The Myths Of The Old West

Aug 10, 2018

The cattle drive of the Old West was all about connecting the $4 cow in San Antonio with the $40 market in Kansas — and making that connection depended on cowboys.  For these saddle tramps, the cattle drive was just a job, but somehow it became an American myth.

Tim Lehman’s "Up the Trail" reveals that reality was vastly different than the American myth told in dime novels, TV shows and in song.


The cattle drives of our imagination are filled with colorful cowboys singing and coaxing the longhorns against nature, outlaws, stampedes and other threats. But, in fact, the biggest challenge to the drive was boredom.

Far from being rugged individualists, the actual cow herders were itinerant laborers — a proletariat on horseback, who connected cattle from the remote prairies of Texas with the nation’s industrial slaughterhouses.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org or on Twitter @DavidMartinDavi