The above expression was addressed on one of Bob. B. Bell's clips on Encore Western. His explanation of the term 'found' was simplistic. He said the term meant that the cowboy needed to be 'found'.
I grew up in the west and have heard the term all my life. It means just what my dad told me it meant. It means 'board and room'. The dollar was walking around money. The cowboy would be fed and housed plus a dollar every day he worked.
Exactly. "What can be found here" which is a bed in the bunk house and all you can eat. In my case it was $5.00 a day and found and even though it was a very long time ago, what I ate in a day was worth far more than what I was paid in cash.
By the way, that $5.00 is worth about $38.00 today.
Yeah, my first real job was in Alaska, living in a line house, on a railroad track gang. $2.95/hour with $4.95/week deducted for 'found', though they called it room and board. We could ask the cook to fix whatever we wanted and I lost 25 pounds that summer, in spite of the mountains of food! Worked my ass off!
Cowboy pay was pretty standardized in Texas up thru abt WWI. A 'button'--a kid--got $10 a month. Once he got some experience he usually got $15 or $20. A regular cowboy, usually called a'waddy'--"he ain't good fer nothin' but gun waddin'"--got $30. Top hand pay was $40. $50 was 'fightin' wages.' The guy was hired for his gun, not his rope. When the Texas Rangers were reorganized in 1875 & began to get paid again, a Ranger private's wage was $40 a month, same as a top hand. On 'special duty' he could get $50--which was Ira Aten's pay when he went under cover to try to stop the fencecutters in Navarro County.
The story of the fencecutting wars is fascinating. The movie Open Range tried to make heroes out of a bunch of criminals. The fencecutters, in a lot of instances, were guys who ran 500 head or so, but didn't own an acre of ground. They were feeding their stock on other people's grass & watering them with other people's water. When the fences went up these 'cattlemen' were out of business. Others were guys who had maybe half a section--320 acres--but ran big herds. They started cutting fences so they could continue to run their stock on other people's land. There was a lot of blood on the ground in those days. The fencecutters would burn your house & barns & even threaten your women if you fenced your place.
Most of the fences went up in Central & South Texas. Most of far West Texas & the panhandle went unfenced even into the 1920s. The panhandle did have what were called 'drift fences'--long fences to stop cattle from drifting south in blizzards. During the blizzards of the 1880s there are records of finding dead cattle, frozen to death against a drift fence--with Nebraska brands on 'em!
I did a lot of research concerning the winter of 1886 - 87 for my novel "Homesteader". Some of the stories from that winter were horific. Not only was it an awful season but the preceding few years had been quite mild and people became complacent. In addition, there were too many big outfits running too many cattle on too little land. In Southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and South West Manitoba (mot of this was the "North West Territories" at the time) there were a dozen "combine" outfits, most owned by British and US concerns that had not even seen them. In order to make the absentee owners happy it was common practice to increast the herds each year to make the year end numbers look good ... which wasn't hard to do since they sold for next to nothing. Consequently the stock went into the winter in less than great shape and couldn't handle a decent winter, never mind what hit them. Some of the big outfits lost 80%, those that were "lucky" lost 40%.
What promted me to comment was that I discovered a letter relating that Calgary area brands had been found on carcasses in the Texas panhandle.
The blizzard of 1869 was the worst to date in Texas There was 13 ft of snow on the dead level in Dallas--which wasn't there yet, the only thing there was John Neeley Brown's cabin--6 ft in Waco & the Brazos River froze solid, San Antonio had 3 ft--it's on the same latitude as Cairo, Egypt--& even Corpus Christi, on the Gulf coast, had 6 in & it stayed on the ground a week. They call it 'The Winter of the Blue Snow' because folks said it was so cold even the snow turned blue.
Charlie Russell, the cowboy artist, was working on a Montana ranch during the '86-'87 blizzard. When his boss wired to ask what happened to the cattle, Charlie sent him a little sketch on a postcard. It's one of Russell's most famous drawings. It shows one nearly-starved cow facing several wolves. It's called 'The Last of the 5,000' or 'Waiting for a Chinook,' & you've probably seen it reproduced somewhere.
Yes, several times.
I have a book of Russel and it might even be in there. Haven't looked at it in a while.
One of the ranching traditions in Texas was allowing cowboys to own their own brands. They could run their own stock on the boss's place as long as he got a percentage of what came at sale time. When the Brits moved in they wouldn't allow a cowboy to own a brand. That led, in the early '80s, to a cowboy strike in the Texas panhandle. Elmer Kelton wrote a Spur-winning book about it--THE DAY THE COWBOYS QUIT. It's well worth finding & reading. Trouble was, when the Brits came here & started buying ranches, they tried to treat cowboys like they treated servants in England. That didn't work at all!
Outside of the mountain men of the fur-trade era, cowboys were probably the most independent--& orneryest--characters this country ever produced. If you wanted somebody even more independent & ornery, all you had to do was find a ranch cook. If the rancher's wife didn't cook for the hands, he had to hire a cook. Charlie Wooster on Wagon Train & G. W. Wishbone on Rawhide were pale imitations of the real thing. I've known a couple of real ones, including a guy named Lester Jones, who was known as 'Aws--t Jones.'