Historical Note on Cover Picture
Symbolism of the Trail Boss
According to Renner (1956; reprinted in Dippie, 1999, p. 288) the colored print version of Charlie Russell's famous original pen-and-ink sketch of The Trail Boss is a forgery. Renner (1956) specifically named eight C. M. Russell pen sketches that were water colored by unscrupulous mountebanks and sold to unsuspecting collectors as "originals".
The counterfeit print of the symbol for the profession of Range Management and of the emblem for the Society for Range Management was used on this publication not only because color slide photographs are the basis of the current work but also to remind professional resource managers that there are some counterfeits among us, and it often takes an expert and years of threshing to "separate the wheat from the chaff".
Many viewers (perhaps most except connoisseurs) will see
the fake overpainting of the genuine pen-and-ink art as adding some detail
and-- until they were informed otherwise-- not detracting from the work
of the cowboy artist whom Will Rogers in his introduction to Russell's
Trails Plowed Under dubbed America's Michelangelo. (Perhaps the
Okie humorist and cowboy performer Rogers could be dismissed as biased
toward his friend, but no such excuse can explain away why several art
historians and other such authorities claim that Charles Marion Russell
was one of the greatest of all American artists, period.) That it took
the leading authority on the works of Russell to ascertain that the painted
version of the The Trail Boss was a fake is itself a tribute to the forger's
skill (dare it be called "art") at counterfeiting.
First, the are not. A symbol or, the synonym, emblem
(both terms are used interchangeably for The Trail Boss by the Society
for Range Management: Trail Boss News May 2001, p. 5) is not a trademark.
It is simplistic and demeaning of what symbols represent to incorrectly
interpret them as such, as something to sell something. While all professionals
should seek-- in a larger sense-- to "sell themselves" or what
they trade in, symbols like the Cross, Star of David, Old Glory, eagle
emblem of the USA, Scales of Justice, etc. were not created and are not
revered because they seek to sell a faith or belief, nationalism, patriotism,
or this or that profession. In fact, ultimately scorn and contempt
are heaped on those who would commercialize our sacred and cherished symbols
for personal or private gain of political party, denomination, profession,
etc. (ie. when symbols are turned into trademarks). Likewise it would
seem desirable to avoid use of the term "logo" (the clipped
form of logogram) which is so general as to apply variously to a name,
symbol, or trademark, and which is still absent from many standard dictionaries.
Most symbols appear to have risen from the earliest (and, thus almost invariably, obsolete) physical "tool of the trade" or else from some early myth or legend or founding event for the given profession or institution that they symbolize. These range from the Cross, the Shamrock, the Crescent, Buddha for faiths to the caduceus for Medicine (the staff of Aesculapius with a single serpent is the official insignia of the American Medical Association), the mortar-and-pestle for Pharmacy or, sometimes, Chemistry, blind lady justice for Law, quill-and-ink well for journalism or composition, the primitive screw press for publishing or freedom of the press, coiled reata with ancient and stringy longhorn steer for modern beef production. Examples are endless.
These symbols are not "up-to-date". They are not contemporary. Who writes novels, let alone newspaper articles, with a goose quill or uses mortar-and-pestle to dispense prescriptions at the Wal Mart pharmacy? How many professors lecture wearing the medieval academic regalia of cap, hood, and gown? What percentage even own such a costume to wear to commencement, and then what does it do but spook the grandchildren? What did snakes coiled around a staff ever have to do with healing (but see below)? Law and justice were never literally measured and meted out in a pan counter-balance that is now obsolete in chemical laboratories. Obviously more cattle are worked in squeeze chutes, many hydraulic, than on the end of a rawhide rope. Christians are no longer physically crucified. The value, the utility, of symbols is not that they are representative of current usage or contemporary practitioners. It is their historical significance and the heritage they bring to mind and not their reflection of current conditions or usage that are the values and purposes of symbols.
Symbolic portrayal of "the press" is not enhanced by an "up-dated version" of a laptop computer or modern newspaper machinery. Nor would the symbolic representation of range managers be "improved" by the calculated replacement of the politically incorrect cigarette-smoking, gun-totin', cowhand mounted on a politically incorrect "inhumanely" fire-branded, hammer-headed bronc (all Russell cow hosses were broncs, to breakfast or otherwise) with some bare-headed, bob-haired, liberated career woman forking a "four-wheeler" with that aforementioned laptop balanced across the handlebars.
Sometimes symbolism based on the "early days" can be misunderstood or even turned against the profession or institution that uses it. The shield of the United States Postal Service features a Pony Express rider. Like the Trail Boss, this mail-carrying horseman faced many dangers and trials (many were common to both occupations). The Postal Service aegis symbolizes devotion to duty and delivering the goods in spite of all adversity. This meaning may be lost on many citizens. To most modern city slickers a symbol harkening back to the Pony Express era just elicits jokes about the slowness of the mail. Nonetheless, the symbol and it's significance remain. Any ignorance on the part of the citizenry remains a matter of education. The solution is not to change to a symbol of air mail or electronic mail sorting.
Another symbol closely resembling the Trail Boss is that of the circuit rider, a horseback preacher, on the backwoods traces of the frontier. The cultural similarity of circuit riders and trail drivers as devoted pastoral frontiersmen was so obvious to churchmen and cattlemen that the second (revised and unabridged), two-volume edition of The Trail Drivers of Texas (Hunter and Saunders,1925, reprinted, 1986) was published by Cokesbury Press of the Methodist Church. Some of the accounts of drovers may have been bowdlerized. Teddy Blue Abbot complained that Trail Drivers made it sound like trail hands were "a bunch of preachers" (Worcester, 1980, p. 92). Regardless, the affinity of horseback clergymen and cowboys remains self-evident. The circuit rider is still used as the symbol of the Methodist clergy even though few pastors ride horses to church or to call on members of their flock. As with other religious symbols, initiates are taught the traditions and meanings of the mounted man of God rather than forming a committee to modernize "the image" of the minister. This alternative is herewith suggested to any who find Russell's Trail Boss to be "behind the times" or not representative of today's range manager. Given that many ranges are still managed by someone on horseback our Trail Boss remains less "dated" than his era brethren who horsebacked it to deliver mail and the Gospel.
Symbols are images that tell what the symbolized thing is about in the largest sense of its meaning. If this "sells" that which is symbolized so much for the better, but it is education and inculcation of values-- again, in a larger, "big picture" sense-- not "sales", not increased members or subscribers, not admiration or accolades for which symbols exists. The Trail Boss is not for everyone. He is not intended to be. The admonition of St. Paul is most relevant here: "... be not conformed to this world..." (Romans 12:2).
Symbols are not the things of Madison Avenue. They are not glamorous, aesthetically pleasing, self-promoting advertisements employed by drummers, hucksters, snake oil salesmen, etc. to invade our homes over the air waves and that bedeck our packaged purchases typically try to make us feel good about ourselves and especially about the goods that promoters peddle with slick talk and smooth jingles. To offend, to "turn-off", the would-be customer is usually the last thing an advertiser wants (even if it offends parents or one spouse it may, perhaps for that reason, sell the product to children or the other spouse). Thus it is that trademarks, commercial slogans, smart packaging, and so forth are researched and designed to please the customer not to offend him.
Not so with symbols or creeds. These iconic images are often specifically intended to offend or at least to "get attention" in less than "pleasing" or "nice" ways. The Cross, a cruel tool of torture and painful death, is the most common example, but tools like the emblematic Soviet Hammer and Sickle or even the painfully slow, blister-causing mortal-and-pestle are not all that pleasant to any who have used them for long. Communists used the tiring, backbreaking implements of the manual laborer in their attempt to revolutionize world economic and social order. The symbol on the Combat Badge of the United States Army is a Revolutionary War musket and neither a dove with an olive branch nor a heat-seeking SCUD missile. The symbolic musket is both out-dated and offensive (as well as defensive).
Such symbols represent tradition, sacrifice, devotion to duty (even unto death), and, yes, bloodshed (often of the most heinous, savage, and brutal kind such as internecine warfare). Again the Cross and blood of Christ is the most familar example, but what does the red in flags stand for if not sacrificial blood. Red is not on Old Glory just because it "goes with blue and white" or is a "pretty color".
All symbols of horsemen probably include elements of danger, bloodletting, and "man's inhumanity to man". This is certainly the case for cavalry (as well as Calvary), Pony Express riders, and circuit-riding clergy. During the American Civil War or War Between the States numerous mounted Methodist preachers were killed in cold-blood, many by fellow Methodists. Some were lynched (often in front of wives and children). Others were shot on sight and left as carrion for free-ranging hogs. This was especially the case in Border States (eg. Missouri) or adjoining states like Kansas. It was not called Bleeding Kansas for nothing. Even the nickname of Jayhawker for Kansans comes from the original name for abolitionist gurerrillas who were nothing more than mounted murderous raiders and common theives. Mainline Protestants murdered Joseph Smith and other prominent Mormons and drove the surviving Mormons so far West that they founded Deseret (which later became Utah). The likelihood of death on the trail by riding accidents, foul weather, Indians, grizzly bears, and highwaymen was so great for mounted mail-carriers that handbills advertising for Pony Express riders announced conspicuously that orphans were preferred.
Earlier there had been the Conquistadors-- many of whom were horsemen-- who, among other things, destroyed Indian civilizations that were more magnificant and technologically advanced than Spain herself. The Spanish Conquistadors were explorers and soldiers of both the cross and sword as they committed genocide in vain attempts to find the mystical cities of Cibola (all in the name of Church and State of course). Before that mounted Crusaders launched holy wars against the infidels that slaughtered thousands.
The fact that these "crimes against humanity" were conducted in large part on horseback does not negate the symbolic value of the mounted horseman. Rather, it enhances the emblematic horseman. For example, the final victory of Christ over Satan was symbolized by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse including two equipped with weapons and one that was Death (Revelation 6: 1-8). The symbols of the Four Horsemen from the JudeoChristian heritage have persisted in numerous forms throughout Western culture (often unrecognized as such) including Range Management's own Four Horsemen of the Prairies tallgrass species. The "dark side" of suffering, sacrifice, sin, and death behind such symbols is often overlooked or forgotten. Graham (1983, p. 9) wrote that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse "are terrible and terrifying" and "anything but beautiful".
Atrocities against fellow human beings is the darker side of human nature and such violation against mankind was a key characteristic of the frontier. This is our heritage, both good and bad (eg. the Civil War forged the Union but was the bloodiest war in the New World). Like the Cross, Star of David, and Stars and Strips the Trail Boss, Pony Express rider, and Army cavalryman symbolize both right and wrong, good and evil, the highest and lowest of humaness. That is the instructive as well as inspirational aspect of them. The features of wickenness, injustice, intolerance, etc. are counterpoised (hopefully outweighed) with goodness, justice, duty, generosity, nobleness, and brotherhood. That is the very essence of a symbol. The symbol, emblem, or icon was created for that exact purpose. That was the message of the Apoclyptic Horsemen. They were part of the strongest, most poignant symbolism of the ultimate triumph of good over evil, of righteousness over wickedness.
In regards Russell's Trail Boss even the revolver, a tool designed for killing (including fellow human beings) and the most obvious or outward sign of the often violent nature of the frontier, is not only appropriate but essential to the historically accurate symbolic portrayal of Range Management in North America. It was proven in the epic-telling history text, The Great Plains, by Walter Prescott Webb (1931, ps. 167-179) that the repeating sidearm with a revolving cylinder (hence, revolver) was the first of three great inventions that made possible the various agricultural industries (beginning with open range ranching and ending with irrigated field crop production) in the vast region of North America extending from the 95th or, at least, the 98th meridian to the Coast Range along the Pacific. The second and third of these inventions were, of course, the windmill and barbed wire. The latter proved to be the undoing of the open range cowhand, but the revolver, the first of the three great inventions, made the mounted stock-tender possible because it allowed peace officers (eg. the Texas Rangers) and soldiers to subdue the Plains Indians and border ruffians who had theretofore prevented development of any form of commercial agricultural production other than fur-trapping and buffalo hunting. Those first two commercial uses of natural resources also depended on invention of various kinds of firearms that were quickly adopted and used by all peoples, including Indians.
This was as much the history of Canada and her frontier as of the United States. "Just for starters" readers are referred to Kelly (1913) and Friesen (1984). The Canadian Mounted Police were the equivalent of the Texas Rangers for example. Charlie Russell works of art included several of Canada's mounted (and armed) constabulary.
The "hog-leg" conspicuously hanging from the hip of Russell's Trail Boss symbolizes to perfection the science and technology (again, both the good and the bad) that allowed birth and development of agricultural professions like Range Managaement, Forestry, and Wildlife Management. Natural resource professionals should never forget the fundamental principle that science and technology and the proper (= wise) use thereof is essential to resource management. Leopold (1933, p. vii) stated it succinctly: "The central thesis of game management is this: game can be restored by the creative use of the same tools which have heretofore destroyed it-- axe, plow, cow, fire, and gun".
Even the misinterpretation of the Trail Boss six-shooter as a phallic symbol verifies that The Trail Boss is a symbol or an emblem. The phallic symbol has been the most powerful and widespread symbolic usage in recorded history. Circumcision which, according to scripture, is the token of the covenant between God and man is the original symbol of Judism, Christainity, and Islam. One of the reasons why symbols like Russell's weapon-wearing Trail Boss (or the armed Horseman of the Apocalypse or circumcision or the Cross) are often controversial is because they are so powerful. This power, this capacity to elicit such strong emotional responses, attest to their effectiveness and, hence, their appropriateness. That is why they were selected and continue to be used. They work.
At heart, professional management of natural resources always was a religions movement. This was most obvious in the birth and early stages of the general Conservation Movement. From the time of Major John Wesley Powell-- preacher's kid, Civil War officer, explorer, geologist, proto-type agency bureaucrat, and "Patron Saint of Range Management"-- to that of Hugh Hammond Bennett-- the evangelical "Father of Soil Conservation in America"-- to Aldo Leopold-- Father of Wildlife Management and author of the Land Ethic-- conservation of natural resources was tacitly understood by the founders to be an application of the covenant between God and the descendents of Abraham known by the beautiful word of stewardship. (Refer to the Eleventh Commandment quoted elsewhere in this publication.) A spiritual foundation underlay all views of natural resource management whether it took the form of John Muir's preservation through the medium of transcendentalism, Gifford Pinchot's wise use conservation as utilitarinism wrapped in the Golden Rule, or Aldo Leopold's creative use restoration extended to a love-of-land ethics. The foundation of natural resource conservation can never be fully understood without reference to and comprehension of the corner stone of stewardship as an activated application of the eternal covenant that extends as birthright from ancestor to unending future generations.
Stewardship as husbandry began and has remained the generic concept of conservation. The practice of faithful stewardship through husbandry as that blend of art and science, technology and craft, theory and industry applied to all natural and human resources is still the soul in management of natural resources so as to optimize their future use.
This stewardship of grazing lands and related resources as husbandry will always be encapsulated and personified to perfection by Russell's Trail Boss, the West's version of the Good Shepherd. The trail horse reminds us of the historic truth written by John Trotwood Moore: "Wherever man has left his footprints in the long ascent from barbarism to civilization, we will find the hoofprints of the horse beside it". By way of illustration Genghis Khan, a mounted Mongolian warrior, was the greatest conqueror in human history. He conquered most of the known world and secured control over the greatest area of land in recorded history by means of a mobile army of cavalry that lived to a large degree off of the meat and milk provided by accompaning horse herds. According to the story (legend or fact is unknown) Genghis Khan fell from his horse as he died.
In Biblical history Jewish kings arrived on horseback (usually on a mule or ass to symbolize peace) when they were to be annointed (eg. I Kings 1:33-34). This included the King of Kings on his triumph entry into Jerusalem. Each of the Gospels explicitly recored Jesus' mounted arrival for what was to be His crucifixtion (Matthew 21: 1-9, Mark 11: 1-10, Luke 19: 29-38, John 12: 14-15). The first and last of these writers referred to the king being mounted on the colt of an ass in context of Old Testament prophecy (Zechariah 9:9). Modern interpretations of these scriptures can be found in standard Bible commentaries such as Eiselen et al. (1929; 985) for the symbolism of the king on a lowly beast of burden.
Horseflesh and their husbandmen and riders were some of the most historically pivotal figures and poignant symbols in both the oral and written traditions of Judism and Christainity. "Horses and horsemen are mentioned some three hundred times in the Bible" (Graham, 1983, p. 10).
According to traditional Muslim teachings Muhammad was transported on his famous "night journey" from the Temple in Jerusalem up to Seventh Heaven or Paradise on a winged mount named Buraq or al-Buraq. Some interpretations of the celestial leg of the night journey specified that al-Buraq was intermediate in size between an ass and a mule and had wings in his thighs. According to other versions the winged Buraq had the head of a woman and the tail of a peacock (Finegan, 1952, p. 496). Regardless of the non-equine attachments Muhammad asecnded or was carried to heaven horseback to lead God's prophets in prayer. The Holy Qur'an (Koran) told Muslems that Allah made horses, mules, and asses for them ro ride on and as an "ornament" (Surah XVI: 8). Passages with a similar reference to the ass and the horse for use by man appeared in The Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 18: 25, Ether 9:19).
Central figures in history have often been featured prominently mounted on horses in works of art, both canvas and stone, from medieval through modern times. Those so depicted range from Napoleon Bonapart to George Washington. The mounts of some of these leaders were even well-known in their own right (eg. Traveler, the distinctive and elegant gray of the immortal Robert E. Lee). The equestrian statue has long been a standard art form for representation of the famous or notable horse and rider. Examples extend from "great men" (again, Washington) to "favorite sons" like Will Rogers to depictions of a class or category of horsemen such as trail drivers and open range cowhands (eg. Range Rider of the Yellowstone in the Billings Montana airport).The largest rock relief carving in the world is the Confederate Memorial Carving on Stone Mountain Georgia which features three mounted Confederate heros with full body carvings of both horses and riders. The giant carving of Chief Crazy Horse riding his horse that is under construction in the Black Hills is intended to pay tribute to the first humans known to frequent this area and to portray some of the most accomplished mounted warriors of all time (and to dwarf the heros on Mount Rushmore).
The horseman then is one of the most enduring and historically pertinent symbols of all time. Also symbolically instructive are articles accompanying horse and rider. Technology, craftmanship, attention to detail, even committment are symbolized in the stock saddle. The coiled rope is the equivalent of the shepherd's staff that symbolized care and comfort, the mutual dependence of man and domestic animal, and the management of the land and it's resources through manipulation of animals. The "six-gun" is the equivalent of weapons carried by shepherds like David, including weapons which hurled projectiles, weapons to defend that which was entrusted to them in the presence of their enemies. Above all was the watchful, clear eye combined with the vision and wisdom of the manager, the workman who was willing to pay any price, even the supreme sacrifice, to defend those resources that were his charges.
There are few, perhaps no other, symbols or emblems of any profession that are more proper, powerful, and poignant than that for Range Management: The Trail Boss. Fred Renner chose well.
In fact, the founders of the original organization devoted to this profession, the American Society of Range Management, chose an emblem that was perfect. The Trail Boss so faultlessly captures the spirit, historical accuracy, and fundamental principles and practices of Range Management that informed or enlightened individuals who would oppose this symbol fit the definition of iconclast (adjective, iconclastic). Exempted from this axiomatic characterization are those who have not been informed or those which might understandably be confused or even misinformed as to the professional meaning, historical significance, and factual interpretation of The Trail Boss as emblem, symbol, or icon.
Many symbols have a meaning of longstanding that is opposite of what contemporary "commonsense" affixes to them. Again, this is a matter calling for education of the uninformed not invention of a more easily recognized trademark designed to conform with popular culture and current understanding (more commonly misunderstanding). It is a job for researchers or scholars to discover the original meaning and for teachers to instruct as to the facts and to inculcate the values. This is true in particular for education in the professions as new initiates are brought into the fold of any profession.
It is not a call for more advertisers and promoters playing to the whims of the ignorant. Nor is it for leaders in professions to "dumb down" the symbolism of our calling or betray our revered traditions to appeal to the whims of mass media or to appease the young who were raised up on trash television, acid rock, and video games. Professionals are asked and expected to bear true, not false, witness to our profession. It is not for us to despise our professional birthright. We were not called to be Esaus. Neither is it for us to rewrite the meaning of symbols in order that they are more asethetically pleasing or in conformance with misconceptions of the uninformed or illiterate. The latter includes even supposed mature professionals who might somehow have missed part of the history of their own profession (eg. how a craft, practice, order, or industry was begun by forebears riding horses).
As mentioned above, most people today would not associate snakes with physicians and human health other than in treatment of snake bite. Yet that is simply a matter of current ignorance about a symbol that traces to antiquity. In using the coiled snake as the symbol on its publications the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences provided this explanation: "The serpent has been a symbol of long life, healing, and knowledge among almost all cultures and religions since the beginning of recorded history". Rather than depicting "sin and death" or "pain and suffering" the snake symbolizes health and longevity. Instead of representing an all-too apparent, but incorrect, interpretation of life-threatening venomous vermin the serpent stands ("coils") for the abundant life. Thus it is that the serpent, the staff of Aesculapius, and the caduceus are most fitting emblems for professions dedicated to the knowledge of health and healing.
A situation similar to the serpent and Medicine may exist for The Trail Boss and Range Management. There may be some, including some in the Range Management profession, who misinterpret our emblem as a carousing, dangerous social deviate hell-bent on exploiting nature and his fellow man and unfit to be in polite company, if in human society at all. These are the ignorant who fail to understand the deeper meaning of symbols and especially of the emblematic character who has come to symbolize our profession. This calls for education rather than promotion that conforms with the pop culture of the day.
Recent elimination (for all practical purposes) of The Trail Boss symbol by the Society for Range Management by replacement of Russell's perfect emblem with an ant-like silhouette was in this writer's opinion cowardness and emblematic of the fact that political expediency (vs. professionalism) has to some degree co-opted that organization. The trail "antification" of our Trail Boss was, in this author's view, cynical iconoclasm by a editorial minority within the profession of Range Management. The SRM "trail ant" symbolized the fact that organizational membership has come to trump historic accuracy and the deeper meanings of professional symbols. Education of new members as to symbolism, tradition, historicl heritage, and applications of range practice (eg. practical management by livestock herding so as to achieve Proper Distribution of Use, one of the Four Cardinal Principles of Range Managemenat) has become of much less importance than popular culture and its use to recruit new members into the primary professional/scientific organization that represents Range Manageament.
For comparison, would (will) the profession of Medicine degrade the serpent on its caduceus to a nematode?
The subject of western range stock-raising (including sheep and goat ranching) , cowboys, and the like has been one of the most extensively studied (in remarkable detail) and written-about aspects of American history.
This includes both general treatments by the great frontier historians like Frederic Jackson Turner, Walter Prescott Webb, Ray Allen Billington, and Terry G. Jordan and specific books devoted to one ranch or ranchman by historians like J. Evetts Haley. Hollywood's infatuation with "horse operas" merely reflected earlier parallel preferences by our most prominent historians (including those of the Eastern Ivy League breed like Harvard in the case of Turner). There is clear, convincing, and unequivocal factual (and analytical) historic evidence to prove that the western stockmen were some of the noblest and most influential characters in development of what for lack of a better term could be called the "American character".
Of course the horesback stockman is international (more like universal) in space and prehistoric in time. Every continent and probably most nations had (have) the equivalent of Russell's Trail Boss. In fact, it is quite likely that a higher percentage of people in Mongonolia, Afghanistan, Mexico, and South Africa or even Kenya would recognize The Trail Boss with deeper, fuller understanding that many contemporary undergraduate Range Management majors in US colleges. This is likely to be case when most of the range students were "raised up on concrete" (ie. were not farm- or ranch-raised) and decided on a natural resource field like Range Management, Forestry, or Wildlife Management mostly because they think it is the route to decent jobs that pay them to "work in the woods" (ie. they relate to and envision Forestry or Range Science primarily as a way to have a career that allows them to camp out when they want to). "Little do they know".
Such "greenhorns" or "tenderfeet" could not be expected to fully appreprediate the historic-- let alone the symbolic-- significance of a cowhand to management of native grazing grounds. Once more, this is a problem of education and not one of "image". It is the duty of teachers to instruct initiates into the historical meaning of symbols and not to "up-date the image".
The definitive work on the cowhand is generally regarded to be the seminal historic study by Rollins (1936). Rollins credited western ranchmen with three "continuing results" on America's national character: 1) preventing extension of the Mason-Dixon line into the West ("... there was no North vs. South in the Cattle Country"), a remarkable accomplishment given the influence of Texas in extension of the range industries even into the Canadian Prairie Provinces, 2) reducing sectionalism by developing "an intense solidarity among all trans-Missouri River people" (ie. they thought of and termed themselves as "Westerners" not Coloradans, Oregonians, Montanans, etc.), and 3) extending American democracy (economic, social, cultural) and expanding its application to more classes of people. Similar "results" were described for other frontier nations such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, and Brazil. See for example Nugent in Milner et al. (1994, ps. 803-833). The North American cowhand originated largely out of the Spanish-Mexican tradition of handling cattle horseback and this Hispanic version of the "cowboy" extended completely throughout Central and South America with vaqueros, gauchos, and llaneros as the Latino counterparts of Charlie Russell's Montana buckeroo. Most of the democratizing "results" of the cowhand were perpetuated among South American mounted stockmen as well. See details in Slatta (1992, 1997).
In regard to the third "result" it should be noted that terms like ranchmen, rangemen, lumbermen, etc. were democratic in generic as well as in strict, literal meaning. Ranchman and rangemen were terms of universal application for all engaged in stock-raising on ranch or open range. The lowest horse wrangler (the bottom rung of the range social ladder) shared equally with the rancher (the highest status of the proprietor class). Each took his turn in the chow line; camp grounds were open to all comers on basis of the democratic doctrine of "first come first served". This included all regardless of race, sex, creed, education, social class. The Scottish nobleman who owned the ranch was accorded no preferential treatment over the Mexican vaquero or the colored "cook's louse".
Recent revisionist historians indicated, often quantitatively, the frequent high percentages of cowhands, ranchhands, trail drovers, etc. that were of Negro, Mexican, or American Indian racial stock. Nicknames like "Nigger Bob" or "Injun" notwithstanding, each was accorded democratic treatment and respect based on individual dependability, skill, loyalty, etc. This democratic character extended to women. The Western Range had its share of cowgirls and cattle queens. Rodeo was one of the first athletic events to admit female contestants, even creating special events for the one class accorded universal placement on a pedestal. (Rodeo also included among it's top performers Negro and Mexican contestants decades before members of these races or ethenic groups were admitted to sports like baseball.) The range state of Wyoming was the first state to extend suffrage to women; later range states like Oklahoma specified universal suffrage in their constitutions. In the spirit of western democracy all women were accorded great respect, this usually extending, in its own way, even to cowtown whores. See Rollins (1936, especially chapters IV and XVIII).
Yep, that's a real cowgal, the genuine article. This photograph of a woman cowhand was taken during the final days of open range ranching in the Canadian West (Alberta) during the late Nineteenth-early Twentieth Centuries. Elofson (2004), whose research provided this photograph for public study, described this location and era as "the land and times of Charlie Russell". Incidentially, this historical treatment and the earlier work of Elofson (2000) provided detailed and balanced coverage of ranching on the Canadian portion of the Western Range. This photograph of an actual range laborer on the cattle-ranching frontier was further proof (although such was certainly not needed) of the authenicity, genius, and peerless artistic craft of Charles Marion Russell. Charlie Russell was beyond question the all-time greatest artist of action scenes in the North American West in general and the cowboy (=vaquero, buckeroo, cowhand) in particular. Similarities between our beloved Trail Boss and the open range frontiersman shown in the above photgraph were amazing. The cigarette, prominent revolver, narrow-seat stock saddle, reins hanging below stirrups, fire brands on horses' right thighs, and, perhaps most revealing, the shape of hat brim were of such sameness that this cowhand could have served as the model for Russell's Trail Boss. The most obvious difference between these two representations was The Trail Boss mount was relaxed and standing hip-shot with slack reins while the Alberta cow hoss was held at the ready on tight-rein. The Alberta cowhand was likely a "south-paw" as there was no rope on the horse's right shoulder while the mane (which is usually kept or trained to stay on the rope's offside) was on the right side. On the other hand, it could be argued that this homely "queen of the prairie" was right-handed given that her revolver was on her right hip with "hog-leg" handle pointed to the rear which was not the typical position for cross-draw, the convenient position when horseback. The tail of Rusell's horse had been "pulled" whereas that of the horse in the photograph was untrimmed. Students of horse confirmation and features will have noted the extreme hammerhead, Roman nose, and the smaller but general draft horse type of the Alberta cow horse. Horse flesh like the one shown in this historic photograph--not Trigger or Silver-- was the standard of the Western range.
The Trail Boss and the photographic proof of the Alberta cowhand reflect symbolically and historically the western code of equal treatment for equal work along with an openness as open as the range itself to all comers. This code of equally was the unspoken and unquestioned basis of work on Western grazing lands. Equality of opportunity was the first rule among riders on the range. Furthermore, reward was generally consistent with responsibility and the personal freedom of a market-based democracy. For example, in spite of generally low social status the wages paid for sheepherders were usually two to three times that necessary to secure a cowhand of similar skill. This opportunity and code of conduct on the range was consistent with the first directive listed under the Society for Range Management code of ethics. The cowboy and proto-type range manager as symbolized by our Trail Boss (and representing his occupational equivalent on all continents) is one of the most enduring characters on Earth and a most fitting emblem for an organization devoted to stewardship of grazing lands.
It is the duty of those who know the cultural background of our symbol and the facts bearing on its adoption to arise and educate those who have not been privileged to hear or read the truth. This is not opinion. It is the way professions pass on their beliefs, traditions, ethics, etc. It is also history. Go to the original sources, the records and archival literature of the Society for Range Management (originally the American Society of Range Management). Read the words of the founders like Fred Renner and Harold Heady specifically as these relate to Russell's Trail Boss. Study in particular the published history of our Society by Wasser et al. (1987).
For those who desire a "reference" to the life of range stockmen, including the boss of the trail herd, there is a limitless list of excellent books devoted to trail drivers, stock drovers, cattlemen, woolgrowers, ranches, forest grazing, public lands grazing, open range ranching , stock-growers associations, cattle and sheep frontiers, (not to even start on the frontier in general). All these were passed over in favor of one perfect epic poem by the Barb of the Tularosa, Eugene Manlove Rhodes.
Rhodes remains the literary giant of New Mexico. No other even comes close. Rhodes was to the Land of Enchantment what Charlie Russell, Will Rogers, Mark Twain and Thomas Hart Benton, J. Frank Dobie, and Carl Sandberg were to Montana, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, and Illinois, respectively. Gene Rhodes was best known for his Western short stories, but his classic was a heroic poem entitled The Hired Man on Horseback. Dobie described this as "... not only the finest poem yet written on any range subject but the strongest, noblest and most moving poem that the Southwest can claim" (in Dearing, 1949, p. xx). Sonnichsen (1960, p. 226) described it simply as "... the best poem in our language about cowboys". Any who can read through those flawless lines and not think reverently of The Trail Boss and understand the appropriatness of our sacred symbol are dead indeed.
The Hired Man on Horseback
(With apologies to G.K. Chesterton and Don Juan of Austria.)
The typical cowboy is ... simply a riding farmhand.-- JAMES
STEPHENS; International Book Review.
Harp and flute and violin, throbbing through the night,
(Whoopie-ti-yo-oo! Hi yo-o, my little dogies!)
Doggerel upon his lips and valor in his heart,
(Whoopie-ti-yo-oo! Hi yo-o, my little dogies!)
'We got 'em now, you sleepy men, so pull your freight to
If to his dreams a face may come? Ah, turn your eyes
The broker's in his office before the stroke of ten,
White horns gleaming where the flood rolls brown,
A little midnight supper when the play is done,
There is no star in the pit-black night, there is none to
know or blame,
The proud Young Intellectuals, a cultured folk are these,
For he heard old voices and he heard hoofs beat,
Cossack and Saracen
----- EUGENE MANLOVE RHODES.