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The cook has prepared abundance of food for these hard-working men, whose constant exercise in the fresh air gives them good appetites. In the menu of the round up fresh beef is sure to figure, and beef of the best sort running in the herd. It makes no difference whose brand is on the animal desired for the mess; if wanted, it is forth with roped, thrown, and butchered.

In the old days no account was kept of the round that be, but of later days the owner of an animal killed for beef is usually credited with it on its round of books.

cowboys on the wagon

Sometimes, when time and opportunity offered, the cow puncher has for his dinner a dish probably unknown elsewhere than on the range, and not often there. A choice bit of “porterhouse” steak, cut thick, is placed between two steaks of similar size excellence, and the whole buried under a bed of hot coals. In this way the middle state retains all the juices of its double envelope, and offers a morsel which might well be appreciated by a man less hungry for more particular than the tired cow puncher.

Cowboys eating

A pound or so of beef, with some tender vegetables, taken with a quart or so of coffee, and the cow puncher is ready to hunt his blankets and make ready for another day. He does not work on the eight hours a day schedule, but works during the hours when it is light enough to see.

chuck wagon

The light of the day may find him some miles from where the cooks fires are gleaming, and the Swift chill of the night of the plains may have fallen before his jogging pony, which trots now with his head and ears down, brings him up to the camp, which for him, as much as any place on Earth, is home.

cowboys chuck wagon

The term “cowboy” may have originated literally as “a boy who tends cows.” By 1849 it had evolved into modern usage as an adult cattle handler of the American west. “Cowhand” appeared in 1852. “Cowpoke” appeared in 1881. Also used were buckaroo and cattlepuncher.

cowboys sitting next to chuck wagon

“Cowboy” was common throughout the west, but particularly in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, “Buckaroo” was used primarily in the Great Basin and California. “Cowpuncher” or “Cattlepuncher” was a Texas thang.

cowboy cooking on a fire

A cowboy was “just a plain bowlegged human who smelled very horsey at times.”

Chuck wagon cook

Cowboys generally came from the lower social classes, including ex-slaves. The pay was poor, approximately a dollar a day, plus food.

Cowboy cook

The cowboys’ average age was 24.

chuck wagon cowboy cook

Two-thirds of cowboys made only one trail drive before leaving the profession.

cook standing next to chuck wagon

The drover crew included a cook, who drove a chuck wagon. In addition to being in charge of the food, the cook was generally knowledgable of practical medicine.