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But it was more than money that called these men to the trail, it was adventure and cowboy pride. Pride in doing the job he was being paid to do, pride in his horsemanship, and his ability to handle anything the trail or the weather could throw at him. They were honor bound, they gave their word, and any good cowboy would die for their honor or their word if it came down to it.
Life was slow and boring most times, it moved at the pace of a tired, thirsty cow. It could be hot and dusty, so dusty it would dry your throat and mud your eyes. It might be cold and rainy, a rain that would chill a man to the bone in minutes, all in the same day. It was lonely. Most cowboys worked out of hearing distance and sometimes even sight of each other riding point, herd, or drag. And town, well that was at the end of the trail.
But on those rare occasions when things went sideways, it could get exciting real fast. When thunder or lightning, a grizzly or just plaincow ghosts spooked a herd of 2,000 half wild cattle, the prairie would literally shake with the pounding, and the entire ground as far as you could see would begin to move faster and faster, the whole herd feeding on the frenzy of itself until they could run no more, or until they plunged into a wash or gully or river. That could cost hundreds of lives and bankrupt the whole endeavor.
Any young cowboy worth his salt, put spur to hide, with no thought of the danger, to try to ride down and turn the herd. If he can get the leaders to slowly turn, the rest will follow and they can be run in a huge circle over safe ground until they wind themselves and are forced to stop.
In an instant, quick as the lightening itself, a scared calf trying to quit the herd puts both in a deadly situation.
In terms of dollars, cowboys sold their time cheap, but for duty and honor some young boys paid The Highest Price for Beef.
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