NHRC to observe the National Day of the Cowboy on Saturday, July 24

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The 17th Annual National Day of the Cowboy honors both past and present cowboys. Carl “Bigun” Bradley was a rugged, masculine wagon boss on the Four Sixes Ranch in 1963 when advertising executives made him the first real cowboy used as the Marlboro Man. The ranch in Guthrie, Texas, was the setting for almost all the photographs and commercials when Bradley was the main Marlboro Man for seven years. (Photo provided by the NHRC)

LUBBOCK, Texas (PRESS RELEASE) — The following is a press release from the National Ranching Heritage Center:

Cowboys with their horses and cattle will greet visitors from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday (July 24) at the National Ranching Heritage Center in observance of the 17th Annual National Day of the Cowboy.

Cotton Leathers, foreman of the Frisco Creek Division of the Four Sixes Ranch, will demonstrate the progression of training horses, and Bedford Jones of Jones Cattle Co. will show visitors how cowboys use their horses to work cattle.

“It’s a natural fit for the National Ranching Heritage Center to be part of celebrating the National Day of the Cowboy since cowboys have been and still are critical to caring for and working with livestock on a daily basis,” explained NRHC Executive Director Jim Bret Campbell.

Campbell noted that the first official National Day of the Cowboy was in 2005 when a grassroots effort supported by many Western lifestyle organizations resulted in the U.S. Senate declaring the fourth Saturday of July as “National Day of the American Cowboy.” The Senate resolution has subsequently been renewed each year to honor the heritage and continued work of the American cowboy.

“We have visitors at the Ranching Heritage Center who think cowboys are a thing of the past,” Campbell said. “We tell them that thousands of cowboys are working on rangeland and pastures throughout America, but you aren’t going to see them from an interstate highway.”

Christopher Columbus has the distinction of being the first person to introduce cattle to the New World during his second voyage in 1494. Those cows were the first such creatures in the Western Hemisphere, and over the centuries they drifted northward. Eventually a form of ranching took shape in the 1730s when herds were loosed along the San Antonio River to feed Spanish missionaries, soldiers and civilians in the San Antonio and Goliad areas of what is now Texas.

Many of the Spanish priests in those areas were sons of Spanish nobility trained from birth as superb horsemen. Gradually the vaquero—the Mexican cowboy—was born when the priests needed help handling the cows and taught the vaquero how to snare a steer on the run by throwing a loop of braided rawhide rope. The rope was known for centuries in Spain as “la reata” and later Americanized as “lariat.”

“Whenever a cowboy swings a lariat or rides in a rodeo, he pays silent tribute to the Spaniards and vaqueros who started it all,” Campbell said, pointing out that the word “ranch” is derived from the Spanish word “rancho” and “rodeo” is the Spanish word for “roundup.”

The history of the American cowboy covers a brief but incredible time span that primarily began after the Civil War when the range cattle industry developed first in Texas and then spread throughout the Southwest and the northern Great Plains. “Today ranching and cowboys are an important part of the fabric of America,” Campbell said. “The National Day of the Cowboy honors not only the history of the cowboy but also the continued work of the cowboy.”

The NRHC is open to the public free of charge from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The historic park closes daily at 4 p.m., but the indoor museum remains open until 5 p.m. For additional information, see www.nrhc.ttu.edu, call 806.742.0498 or email ranchhc@ttu.edu.

(Press release from the National Ranching Heritage Center)

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