Most people have a fixed image of cowboys living the traditional life of Wild West. Real cowboys were tall, romantic-looking men who rode horses expertly all year round, who ate healthyand hearty meals around welcoming campfires and who, of course, carried guns which they could draw swiftly and shoot accurately.
The cowboy era did not last very long (for about 30 years, from 165to 18959;
Cowboys did not at all look like Gary Cooper or John Wayne (in fact, about one-third of them were black or Mexican); they did not work permanently as cowboys, but only from March toSeptember; they did not eat well, but followed a monotonous diet of beef, beans and bacon which did which did not provide enough vitamins; and, most surprising of all, they did not normally carry guns. Thelife of a real cowboy was very different from the movie image.
Where, the did our romanticized view of cowboys come from, and why does it still survive today? If one man was responsible more than anyother it, was William Frederick Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill. The Wild West Show he introduced in 1883 fascinated crowds around the world for more than 20 years and created the myth of thecowboy`s expertise with guns.
More than 700 cheap novels about Cody certainly reinforced this. Then came Owen Wister`s 1902 novel The Virginian, white its creation of the romantic cowboy, quicklyfollowed, in 1903, by The Great train Robbery, the first cowboy film. Both were extremely successful; imitations soon followed and a tradition was established.
That explains how the myth developed, but whydoes the myth still survive today?
Psychologists suggest that the image of the cowboy as a refuge from industrial civilization is something which attracted people oppressed by industrialization inthe nineteenth century. The industrial society still exists for years to come - together with our romantic vision of the romantically- dressed, romantically dressed, romantically adventurous cowboy....