Once upon a time I believed cowboys were binge drinking,... their time starting fights at bars and spending their wages...

“The Day the Cowboys Quit” Elmer Kelton. Forge Books; 1st edition April 1999. ISMN 0-87565-054-6
Once upon a time I believed cowboys were binge drinking, train robbing, outlaws who spent most of
their time starting fights at bars and spending their wages fooling around with women. After reading “The Day
the Cowboys Quit,” by Elmer Kelton, my whole perspective over cowboys changed dramatically. Fooled by old
western movies I came to a conclusion that I had no idea what a cowboy really was. The more I read, the more
I realized how incorrect and stereotypical my ideology of what a cowboy really was during that time. In this
great novel, Kelton chooses Hugh Hitchcock as the main character to illustrate the ordinary life of a cowboy in
the late 1880’s and emphasizes that there is more to cowboys that movies display.
This book was enjoyable to read because of the fact that throughout the book Kelton demonstrated
that not all cowboys were drunken, thieves, always looking for trouble. On the contrary, according to Kelton
these cowboys worked most of the day, “from before they could see in the morning until they could no longer
see in the evening.”(2) And “Many of the men in the Texas Panhandle never owned a pistol.” (2) The majority
worked for cheap wages, sometimes as little as twenty-five dollars a month. These cowboys were employed
by companies that owned thousands of cattle and it was the cowboy’s duty to take care of them. Although the
pay was little some cowboys came across mavericks, and since there was no regulations they had the right to
mark them with their own personal brand in hopes of gathering enough cattle to start their own company.
This novel was also inspirational because even though the cowboys didn’t win the strike against the
land owners, it was exciting to see them stand up for their rights. They believed they deserved higher wages
and the right to own cattle so they went on strike. The cowboys never gave up. When they were getting close
to facing defeat, all the cowboys that still owned cattle decided to combine all of their cattle and start their
own company which made this novel much more exciting to read. After they decided to start their own
company they no longer were striking or trying to get their jobs back, but rather competing against their
previous company and other wealthy companies as well. It showed the heart and determination each and one
of these cowboys had to better their life styles as well as their future.
Not only did this novel show me that cowboys weren’t all about riding horses and firing their guns but
it made me realize that some cowboys were the complete opposite. Throughout the novel Kelton illustrated
that there were cowboys that were men of their word and who valued loyalty, honesty and friendship such as
Hugh Hitchcock. Hitchcock remained loyal to company for many years but when his company owner posted
the rules, after telling Hitchcock he wouldn’t post them, Hitchcock wanted to remain loyal to his boss because
of the friendship they had. But Hitchcock had told his workers that if their company was to ever post the
“rules” he would leave with them and go on strike as well, which demonstrated that Hitchcock was a man of
his word. Once Hitchcock was nearly killed and had his cattle taken from him, he made a dishonest decision
but after realizing that wasn’t the right thing to do he corrected himself without anyone telling him what to
do. Watching Hitchcock change was a big part of what makes this book a very enjoyable to read.
Jane Doe 1302