The Cowboy: Representations of Labor in an American Work Culture

What are the connections between cattle branding and Christian salvation, between livestock castration and square dancing, between rustling and the making of spurs and horsehair bridles in prison, between children’s coloring books…

What are the connections between cattle branding and Christian salvation, between livestock castration and square dancing, between rustling and the making of spurs and horsehair bridles in prison, between children’s coloring books and cowboy poetry as it is practiced today? The Cowboy uses literary, historical, folkloric, and pop cultural sources to document ways in which cowboys address religion, gender, economics, and literature. Arguing that cowboys are defined by the work they do, Allmendinger sets out in each chapter to investigate one form of labor (such as branding, castration, or rustling) that cowboys perform in their “work culture. ” He then looks at early oral poems that cowboys recited around campfires, on trail drives, at roundups, and at home in their bunkhouses, and at later poems, histories and autobiographies written by cowboys–most of which have never before been studied by scholars. He discovers that these texts not only deal with work but with larger concerns, including art, morality, spirituality, and male sexuality. In addition to spotlighting little-known texts, art, and archival sources, The Cowboy examines the works of Twain, Steinbeck, Cather, Norris, Dana, McMurtry, and others, and features more than 60 historic photographs, many of which have not been published until now.

Howdy Pardner

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