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SOS: Searching Out Stories/Info - Cowboy - Cowboys
Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers,
Teachers and Librarians


Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers, Teachers and Librarians

(excerpts from Storytell posts plus original research)

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The Wild West theme doesn't quite bring out the gushing forth of ideas in me that I had hoped, I keep thinking of the excesses—the drinking and the lawlessness. Maybe some cleaning up the town stories/poetry. Perhaps characters like the new sheriff, the preacher man, the town wives who band together to set the men folk straight.


a) Since you are not averse to adapt some stories how about taking a look at More Than A Match by Aaron Shepard. You can find it at:

I shared this story recently during a Conflict Resolution venue and it went over very well. You could turn the giant into some big, mean, oversized cowboy, a gunslinger of sorts, and the the folks who come out to duel with him people from the town: a sheriff, deputy, young whipper snapper, etc. the king could be the preacher and the wise man the town elder.

Also, since you mentioned preacher you could take the story of the rabbi teaching someone who gossips how hard it is to pull back their words. He tells them to scatter the feathers in a below to the wind then instructs them to collect them all. Of course they can't. A good lesson on how fast and far our harmful words travel.

Here is a site on Cowboy Poetry as well, you might find something here.

Cowboy and Western Poetry at the Bar-D Ranch

b) A Cowboy's Guide to Life by Texas Bix Bender
1. Don't squat with yer spurs on.
2. Never kick a fresh cow chip on a hot day.
3. There's two theories to arguin' with a woman. Neither one works.
4. Don't worry about bitin off more than you can chew. Your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger'n you think.
5. If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence,try orderin' somebody else's dog around.
6. Never ask a man the size of his spread.
7. After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral of the story: When you're full of bull, keep your mouth shut.
8. If you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is stop diggin'.
9. Never smack a man who's chewin' tobacco.
10. It don't take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.
11. Never ask a barber if he thinks you need a haircut.
12. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
13. Always drink upstream from the herd.
14. Never drop your gun to hug a grizzly.
15. If you're ridin' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there.
16. When you give a lesson in meanness to a critter or a person, don't be surprised if they learn their lesson.
17. When your're throwin' your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by someone else.
18. Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier'n puttin' it back.
19. Always take a good look at what your're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's critical to know what it was.
20. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket.
21. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

c) Here's one Mark Wilson sent in - it's light, well, it's downright silly, but The Brown Paper Cowboy is definitely fun, too! Hope it helps.

This is the Story for the Telling column from the current issue of the Tale Trader (Louisville Kentucky).

The Brown Paper Cowboy by Robert Rodriquez.
A bunch of good old boys were sitting around the Neutered Bull Saloon one Saturday night,swapping whoppers and windies and stretching the blanket to it's limits and then some. The evening was filled with yarns about scrapes with outlaws,memorable cattle drives,unusual weather,and encounters with grizzly bears. As the evening's narrative festivities continued,everyone wanted to get in on the tales being swapped. It finally came the turn of a grizzled old fellow who'd been sitting in the corner,hardly saying a word or three,till at last prompted by several of the more boisterous members of the crowd,he was finally convinced to tell a tale of his own. In his younger days,he'd been a saloon keeper during the halcyon and glory days of the Virginia City silver strike immediately after the Civil War. It happened that one night,just as the saloon was about to close,in walked a fellow garbed in the oddest outfit anyone could imagine. He wore a brown paper Stetson hat,a brown paper vest,a brown paper shirt,brown paper trousers,brown paper boots,a pair of brown paper holsters containing two pistols made of brown paper,and he carried a brown paper lariat which he constantly twirled in the air to the utter amazement and glee of the delighted crowd,and every time he ordered whiskey,he drank it out of a brown paper cup. Nobody quite ever remembered his name,but folks just started calling him the Brown Paper Cowboy because of his unusual apparel. Night after night,for about a month,he'd come into the saloon just after sundown and the crowds came from near and far just to look at him. Pretty soon the saloon had gained a real reputation as a gathering place to see the Brown Paper Cowboy. And then,just as mysteriously as he'd come,he dropped out of sight to the utter disappointment of folks all around Virginia City. For months thereafter, folks would come to the saloon hoping for his return, but no such luck. About a year later,almost to the date of his last appearance, a small crowd was gathered in the saloon one night,still wondering what had become of the Brown Paper Cowboy,when a tall lanky cowpoke,a Texan by his manner and appearance, said that he had some real sad and distressing news or the folks who were wondering about the Brown Paper Cowboy. The Texan had been in El Paso the month before and had been there the day the Brown Paper Cowboy had been tried,convicted,and hung by the local authorities. Hung! The crowd was stunned into silence and disbelief. "No! How could that happen? Why did they hang him?" they asked,as if in one voice. "Simple," the Texan said. "What else: RUSTLING!!"

Editor's Note:
The tale of The Brown Paper Cowboy seems to be very popular all across the American West, and versions have even popped up in Western Canada. Rodriquez says he has even been told a version in the Austrailian outback done as a rhymed monologue or bush ballad in the grand traditions of the likes of modern Aussie teller,Kel Watkins(current Listmember-G'Day Kel!),or one of Watkins' classic narrative forebears,Banjo Patterson. "I first heard this yarn back in 1989," says Rodriquez,"at a re-enactment rendezvous to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wyoming's statehood. It seems to have been known and popularized with writers from Bret Harte to Clarence Mulford,and it seems to have been told both as a short joke as well as a lengthy shaggy dog story. The ending and final punchline,however,always seem to be the exact same." [Lee Pennington is the Editor-MW].

d) How about a variation on The House that Jack Built (Picture Puffins) (or The House That Jack Built)? You could end up with something like, "This is the cowboy with the black stetston hat that twirled the rope and rode on the horse and chased the cow that sang at the campfire and lived on the ranch that ________ owned (or built as the case may be).

The Story of Ferdinand is the story of a little bull who doesn't want to fight a bullfighter. He just wants to sniff the flowers.

Pecos Bill was a cowboy and Slew Foot Sue was a cowgirl. I would imagine that lots of cowboys talked to their horses. So if you let the cowboy tell his horse a story, you could include a myth or story in which the horse is the hero.

How about an audience participation game? Let's see, you could have the children sit on the floor. They begin by holding the reins with their hands and walking the horse. (Hold hands in front and sway forward and back slightly.) They could twirl a rope with one hand. Then they could wave their hat with the other hand. Say "Giddiup" to get horse to go faster. They could call out, "Yipee!" You could ride faster (do all actions faster) and then slower, then say "Whoa" and put the horse to a stop. Put on its feed bag and let it rest while you listen to another story. (Make sure there is enough space between children before you start this game or practice a "controlled twirl and wave of the hat in a small amount of space.)

Don't forget cowboy songs, Home, Home on the Range and Giddiup Little Doggie.

You might be able to find a simple story in which you could have one group of children say "Yippee" and twirl a rope every time you mention a cowboy and another group say "moo" and put hands to head to make horns everytime you mention the cows.

There is a story about some sillies who thought they had lost one of them. Sometimes this kind of a story is called Noodlehead Stories. Change it to cowboys and horses. So then it goes something like this. Once upon a time there were 5 cowboys. They were out herding cattle and wanted to make sure no one was lost. So they met at the stream and Slim counted everyone. 1, 2, 3, 4. "One of us is lost," he said. They looked for the lost cowboy. They got off their horses to figure out what to do. They counted their horse (everyone had a horse). 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. "Now we're all here." Next time they are herding cows, Shorty counts "1, 2, 3, 4. One of us is lost." They get off their horses to plan what to do, count horses and everyone is there! Can't figure out what is happening. Cowgirl (or wise Indian) or Ranch boss comes along and helps them figure out that the person counting is always forgetting to count himself!

e) Several years ago I got to perform at the Texas Folklife Festival on the storytelling stage with the likes of Elizabeth Ellis. I researched a few new stories and I adapted a few others and not only had a great time doing that program, but used similar stuff at the University Museum (of the University of PA in Philly) for a Western theme. Part of my program included making posters (black marker on sections of white poster board) of some of the most common brands and talking about them, introducing the audience to the ways a brand letter became the “Lazy Y” or the “Rocking K”, etc. I ended with a few for the audience to guess.

You may also hold up a bandana and talk about its many uses: apron, dust protector, hat band, boot decoration (around the top), baby diaper, broken arm sling, (get your audience to think up others), concluding with a couple of tne bandana folding forms used in storytelling like “twins in the hammock” and the pioneer lady.

Some of the songs that are fun to use include The Cowboy’s ABC (Riders in the Sky), I’m Going to Leave Old Texas Now, When it’s Roundup Time in Texas, The Yellow Rose of Texas, Ragtime Cowboy Joe, I’m an Old Cowhand, The Old Chisolm Trail, Ghost Riders in the Sky, and The Boll Weevil Song.

I took some of the tall tales about oilman Gib Morgan and reset them in Texas. These include his cows bred to have legs shorter on one side than the other so they can graze on the side of steep hills, and the huge mosquitoes that trap Gib inside an empty silo where he hammers in their stingers and they then fly off with the silo through the air. Some wonderful picture books that can be told without the pictures and fit into a Texas setting include: Meanwhile Back at the Ranch (Reading Rainbow), and Gila Monsters Meet You At the Airport (Reading Rainbow Book).

In the book Sound and Action Stories by Jerry J. Mallett and Timothy S. Ervin, there is an audience participation story called Showdown at Dustrattle and another called The Runaway Stagecoach. The audience is divided into the various characters and have a phrase to say or a motion to perform whenever their character is mentioned. You can easily make up your own similar tale. In an old Boy Scout book there is one I've used called Westy Martin on the Santa Fe Trail. Published with the Approval of the Boy Scouts of America.

I took Pete Seeger’s The Foolish Frog story/song that I have told for years and set it on a ranch with a nearby trading post instead of on a farm with a nearby general store.
Sandy Pomerantz 4/20/03

f) Movie Cowboy
The cowboy lay sprawled across three entire seats in the posh Amarillo theater. When the usher came by and noticed this he whispered to the cowboy, "Sorry, sir, but you're only allowed one seat."

The cowboy groaned but didn't budge. The usher became more impatient. "Sir, if you don't get up from there, I'm going to have to call the manager. The cowboy just groaned. The usher marched briskly back up the aisle. In a moment he returned with the manager. Together the two of them tried repeatedly to move the cowboy, but with no success. Finally, they summoned the police. The cop surveyed the situation briefly then asked, "All right buddy, what's you're name?"

"Sam," the cowboy moaned.
"Where ya from, Sam?"
With pain in his voice Sam replied.... "The balcony."
Judy S. 12/15/98

g) This is one of my favorites and I have it in the storytime room right now because the famous Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is in full swing. The Cowboy and the Black-Eyed Pea, written by Tony Johnston, illus. by Warren Ludwig. 1992.

Our storytime room has cushions for the little ones to sit on and if they're old enough I give them a black-eyed pea to sit on. Then they can tell if they're a real cowboy or cowgirl.
Leslie M.R. 1/26/98

h) There are a several good books that have craft ideas and activities...
Yvonne Young Merrill's Hands-On Rocky Mountains: Art Activities About Anasazi, American Indians, Settler, Trappers and Cowboys (Hands-On (Kits Publishing)).1996. Grades 3-8.
Instructions for 28 paper projects inspired by historical objects of the early West, such as Anasazi woven sandals, jewelry, transition dolls, leather pouch, arm band, woven bag, powder horn, moccasins, hat bands, and a parfleche carryall. Includes information about Native Americans, trappers, and early settlers. Also by this author: Hands-On Asia: Art Activities for All Ages.

Carol Wawrychuk and Cherie McSweeney's Wild West: Active Learning about Pioneers (Hands-On Projects). 1999. Hands-On Projects series. Grades PreK-2.
Provides crafts and activities to help children learn about life in the old west.
Also in this series:
Sea Life (Hands-On Projects)

Airport: Active Learning about Transportation

Trains: Active Learning About Transporation (Hands-On Projects)

Firefighters (Hands-On Projects)
The Grocery Store (Hands-on Projects Series)

Space: Active Learning About the Solar System (Hands-on Projects Series)

The Post Office: Active Learning About Community Workers (Hands-on Projects Series)

The Circus: Active Learning About the Arts (Hands-On Projects)

Jungle Safari: Active Learning about the Environment (Hands-On Projects)

Insects and Spiders: Active Learning about Nature (Hands-On Projects)

Laurie M Carlson's Westward Ho!: An Activity Guide to the Wild West (Kid's Guide series, A). 1996. Grades 2-6.
Provides interesting historical details of the settlement of the west and descriptions of frontier life accompanied by activities and craft ideas.
Also by this author: Classical Kids: An Activity Guide to Life in Ancient Greece and Rome (Kid's Guide series, A) and Colonial Kids: An Activity Guide to Life in the New World (Kid's Guide series, A).

i) I work with an arts organisation that guides groups through Scotland; in April our friend Ed Miller is starting the season by bringing a group from his university. Edinburgh-born Ed has lived in Texas 20 years. He sings this cowboy song collected by John Lomax in the early 1900s. (In other words, it's not copyrighted.) It is tantalisingly hard to sing because the tune usually fastened to it is "The Irish Washerwoman," a jig played so fast the notes fall off. Ed is a master at this. When we had the American Folklore Society meeting in Houston, he stopped the show singing The Devil Made Texas.

Oh the devil in hell they say he was chained and there for a thousand years he remained
He never complained and nor did he moan but decided to start up a hell of his own
Where he could torment the souls of men without being shut in a prison pen
So he asked the Lord if he had any sand left o'er from the making of this great land.

The Lord he said, "Yes, I've plenty on hand but it's way down south in the Rio Grande.
And to tell you the truth the stuff is so poor I doubt it'll do for a hell anymore."
The devil went down and looked over the truck, and he said if it came as a gift he was stuck
For once he'd examined it careful and well, he decided the place was too dry for a hell.

But the Lord just to get the stuff off of his hands, he promised the devil he'd water the land,
For he had some old water that was of no use, a regular boghole that stunk like the deuce.
So the grant it was made and the deed it was given, the Lord he returned to his place up in heaven
The devil soon saw he had everything needed to start up a hell, and so he proceeded.

He scattered tarantulas over the roads, put thorns on the cactus and horns on the toads,
He sprinkled the sand with millions of ants, so the man that sits down must wear soles in his pants.
He lengthened the horn of the Texas steer and added an inch to the jackrabbit's ear
He put water puppies in all of the lakes, and under the rocks he put rattlesnakes.

He hung thorns and brambles on all of the trees, and mixed up the dust with chiggers and fleas.
The rattlesnake bites you, the scorpion stings, the mosquito delights you by buzzing his wings.
The heat in the summer's a hundred and ten, too cool for the devil but too hot for men,
And all who remained in that climate soon bore, stings bites and scratches and blisters galore.

He quickened the buck of the bronco steed and poisoned the feet of the centipede
And the wild boar roams in the black caparel, it's a hell of a place that we've got for a hell.
He planted red peppers beside the brooks, the Mexicans use them in all that they cook
Just dine with a Mexican and you will shout, "I've got hell on the inside as well as the out!"
Wendy W. 2/18/2000

j) In 1998, I asked for horse stories and received many, many ideas. Among those many ideas were some cowboy posts.
1) Here's a riddle:
A cowboy rides into town on Friday and leaves on Friday, but he only stays 3 days. How come?
Answer; His horse is named Friday.
Ina V.D. 1/4/07

k) I recommended this site in the Sept/Oct Storytelling Magazine column. I just checked it again and there is an entire section just on Arizona! Here is the write-up I gave it and the link.

Legends of America
Straddle your saddle and get ready for a rollicking ride across the wide open spaces of the American West. Here are just a few of the topics covered:
• Heritage of the American West
• Legends, Myths and Folktales of the American West
• Native American Legends
• Outlaw Legends
• Women of the American West
• Treasure Tales
"This is a site for the nostalgic and historic minded" with everything you need to know about the people who lived in the towns and on the plains in a time gone by.

Here's another site from 2002 you may find useful.

American Folklore
Take an armchair journey with folktales, myths, legends, Tall Tales and ghost stories from the 50 United States. Tales are clearly indexed so you won't even need to ask for directions.

l) Ed McCurdy and <Somebody> Jackson? had lps out in the 1950s of cowboy songs.
One I can remember is:

There was blood on the saddle,
blood all around,
and a great big puddle
of blood on the ground.

Sorry, I don't know of any story connected.

Bob Gibson had a bunch of shorties. One of my favourites, because I can't sing and so can't remember the lyrics --
You stole my wife -- you horse thief.
You can sing it to any tune you like. I do.
Richard M. 1/4/07

Cowboy Legacy and Western Ways... was initiated and launched by Diane Tribitt, Sr. Executive Editor of I.M. Cowgirl magazine, shortly after hearing that the international magazine was officially "closing their doors." Bringing the cowgirl's stories to an enthusiastic audience of readers has become a personal mission that will now be implemented online, world-wide. A rancher herself, Diane knows that the trials and tribulations of being a cowboy today are just as daunting as they were a hundred years ago. Different generations, different problems...but the fact remains that this chosen lifestyle is not for the meek or mild-hearted, no matter which generation you belong to. And some things never change, no matter what...there will always be tough cattle to wrangle and rough country to ride.

Diane Tribitt 2/22/10

Created 2004; last update 2/22/10