There's something about cowboys and the Wild West that captures and stimulates the imagination of a kid. Thinking back to a time of American expansion and exploration, of uncertainty and discovery, evokes a sense of adventure that seems long lost. Learn a few fun facts about the Wild West's gunslingers to this preoccupation educational, as well.
Cowboys in the American West may have spoke English, but they had specialized language of their own. Cowboys used slang for a number of things. Onions, for instance, were often called "skunk eggs," while beans were referred to as "Pecos strawberries" or "whistle berries." Biscuits were "hot rocks," "soda sinkers," or "shotgun waddin'." Coffee was sometimes called "brown gargle," and pancakes were "splatter dabs" or "wheelers."
Being a cowboy wasn't all gunslinging and saving damsels in distress from being tied down on the railroad. Cowboys had to brand their livestock in order to indicate the ownership of the animals. Cowboys would use a hot iron to make a mark on each animal, usually on their left hip. Branding was done with a red-hot iron rod which bore the unique mark of the owner. The custom of branding was taken from Spanish "vaqueros," who were Spanish cowboys.
Their voices might not have been heavenly, but cowboys did sing -- usually to their cattle, at night. Some of the songs sung by cowboys -- and which are still around today -- include "Old Dan Tucker," "Nearer My God To Thee," and "The Texas Lullaby." Cowboys sang to their cows in order to calm them and reduce the likelihood that they would stampede after being spooked by phenomena such as thunder and lightning -- an event that was both dangerous and costly.
The Cowboy Hat
Perhaps the most iconic symbol of the Wild West, the cowboy hat, with its wide brim, is also often known as a "ten gallon hat." While the hat seems to be timeless, it was actually invented for Buffalo Bull Cody -- a teller of tall tales -- who used it in his Wild West Show. The hat was originally made by Stetson, a company that is still around today.