Old West Lifestyle & Stories

Cowboys Go On Strike

Cowboys Go On StrikeIn the late 1860’s and the 1870’s a cattle rancher’s life was simple.  He lived in a small cabin, and worked along side the cowboys on his ranch.  A cowboy respected his boss, and he would give his life for the rancher and his cattle.  As they phrased it, “They rode for the brand.” No one would have thought that cowboys go on strike.

By the 1880’s things were changing.  Ranch owners were now living in large homes or were absentee landlords…They were often Eastern, British or Scottish investors.  They had ranch foremen to work with the cowboys.  When these “foreign” owners did come out west, they brought with them customs unfamiliar to the cowboys.  The gap between the cowboy and the owner became wider and wider.

During the spring of 1883, the cowboys from three ranches in the Texas panhandle were rounding up strays together.  And, one evening while setting around a campfire, the cowboys were doing their usual griping about working conditions, when they decided to do something about it…to go on strike.

Their demands were simple.  Among them, a cowboy’s income would increase from $30 to $50 per month.  A cook would get $50 per month.  And the head of an outfit would get $75 per month.

Unfortunately, for the cowboys, they quickly drank and gambled away their strike fund, and the area was full of drifters looking for a job.  So the strike didn’t last more than a couple of weeks.  Some of the cowboys went back to work.  Others left the area.

This strike ended up being just one more nail in the coffin of the Old West cowboy as ranchers set up rules to confine even more their traditional activities.

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