Happy National Day of the Cowboy! I love beef and a good cowboy hat as much as I love bacon. And, the one thing that I think about when I cut into my ribeye steak is the cowboy that helped put it on my plate. Starting in 2005, National Day of the Cowboy is observed annually on the fourth Saturday in July.
The cowboy era and legends began after the Civil War in the heart of Texas and the southern states West of the Mississippi. Cattle were herded long before this time, but in Texas, they grew wild and unchecked. As the country grew, and populations moved West, the demand for beef (my favorite ketogenic food) in the Northern territories and Northwestern states increased. Cowboys moved 5 million head of cattle each year by cowboys pushing their herds on long Northward drives to where profits could be made selling the beef.
The draw of wealth and adventure, mixed with stories of a rough wilderness set on the backdrop of the Great Plains, gave way to the mythological image of the cowboy. Where the dust settles out reveals the truth of the American cowboy and cowgirl. The life of a cowboy required a particular ability to live in a frontier world. It required respect, loyalty and a willingness to work hard.
Former President Bush said of this day, “We celebrate the Cowboy as a symbol of the grand history of the American West. The Cowboy’s love of the land and love of the country are examples for all Americans.”
HOW TO OBSERVE
Celebrate with a cowboy you know and post on social media using #NationalDayOfTheCowboy. Enjoy a western novel or movie, attend a rodeo and embrace the cowboy way of life. Or just pull out your cowboy hat and wear it, thinking about the men and women who tamed the West.
You can see how I observed this special day (Do you like my new hat?)
The Cowboy Hat – Most Recognized Symbol of the West
The cowboy hat is a defining piece of attire that has carried over from the Old West. Originally defined by J.B. Stetson in 1865, it is one article of clothing that has essentially remained unchanged. It is a welcome addition to the Nally home as an essential part of our little ranch’s attire because of shade it provides in the hot Arizona sun, the fitted sweatband inside, and the durability in the rain.
The durability and water-resistance of the original Stetson obtained additional publicity in 1912, when the battleship USS Maine was raised from Havana harbor, where it had sunk in 1898. A Stetson hat was found in the wreck, which had been submerged in seawater for 14 years. The hat had been exposed to ooze, mud, and plant growth. However, the hat was cleaned off, and appeared to be undamaged. (John B. Stetson Company. “Stetson Hats the World Over. The Story of 50 Years of Stetson Foreign Business.” 1927. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Cowboy Hat Design
Ornamentation, like bows and buckles, are usually attached on the left side. This had a practical purpose. Because the majority of people are right-handed, in the absence of a wide brim, bows or feathers on the right side of the hat would interfere with the use of weapons and lassos.
Inside the cowboy hat you’ll find a small memorial bow to past hatters. In the early 1900’s hatters developed brain damage from treating felt with mercury (which gave rise to the expression “Mad as a hatter“). “Early hatters used mercury in the making of their felt hats. Their bodies absorbed mercury, and after several years of making hats, the hatters developed violent and uncontrollable muscle twitching. The ignorance of the times caused people to attribute these seizure like convulsions to madness, not mercury.” The bow on the inside hatband at the rear of the hat often resembles a skull and crossbones.
Meaning of The Cowboy Hat Crease
Today’s cowboy hat has remained essentially unchanged in construction and design since the first Stetson creation. The cowboy hat quickly developed the capability, even in the early years, to identify its wearer as someone associated with the West. “Within a decade the name “John B. Stetson” became synonymous with the word “hat” in every corner and culture West of the Mississippi.” The shape of the hat’s crown and brim were often modified by the wearer for fashion and to protect against weather by being softened in hot steam, shaped, and allowed to dry and cool. Felt tends to stay in the shape that it dries. Because of the ease of personalization, it was often possible to tell where a cowboy hat was from, right down to which ranch, simply by looking at the crease in the crown.
The mystique of the “Wild West” was popularized by entertainers such as Buffalo Bill Cody and western movies starring actors such as Tom Mix, the Cowboy hat came to symbolize the American West. John Wayne christened them “the hat that won the West”. The “Boss of the Plains” design influenced various wide-brimmed hats worn by farmers and ranchers all over the United States. Later designs were customized for law enforcement, military and motion pictures.