Bar U Ranch, Part Six:
The Life of the Cowboys
Ranches like the Bar U, near Longview, would not have prospered without the day-to-day labour of their cowboys.
As historian Simon Evans explains, cowboys at the Bar U looked after thousands of cattle and hundreds of Percheron horses.
We must realize that the people who looked after cattle, and were out on those freezing days making sure that calving was going properly and that no cattle were trouble, these were the working cowboys, or, they call themselves, riders rather than cowboys.
There's definitely, on the Bar U, a sort of status, a sort of hierarchy, if you like, and the riders were the top men on the totem pole, and, of course, the foreman was the top of them.
And under them perhaps, and equally important, were the haying crews. And very often somebody who worked on a haying crew was a young fellow from the neighbourhood, who worked during the summer putting up hay, and would aspire to being taken-on as a rider for the winter.
Along with the riders and haying crews, the Bar U Ranch also depended on its choreboys.
They milked the cows. They would slaughter a pig when that was necessary. They looked after the chickens. They made sure there was water available for the cooks, and so on and so forth. And they were at the beck and call, too, of the house, where the foreman or Mrs. Lane or Anne Clifford, or whoever it was, could send one of the choreboys. And, actually, choreboy was a misnomer, because these were usually older riders, who were so beat up that they couldn't go out on the range so much - pretty arthritic - but they were wonderful in terms of their knowledge and their stories and their ability to put their hand to anything, you know - chopping a bit of firewood, keeping the milk from going off in Pikisko Creek, and whatever it was. So they were some of the unsung heroes, if you like.
While ranching was in their blood, no one could say the cowboys got rich riding the range all day.
One of the things that amazed me is that they were being paid a dollar a day, and keep, in the 1880s. And I was very interested to check on wages and things like that all the way through on the history of the Bar U, and I found that in the 1930s, they were still getting paid a dollar a day, and keep.
Of course, Raymond Clifford and the foreman got paid a little more, and so did the cook. Actually, he got paid rather more.
Of course, there were perks for the top riders. They got to sleep in warm bunks above the cookhouse.
On the Heritage Trail,
I'm Cheryl Croucher.