Skip to main content

Fear Of Cowboys

March 2023
1min read

Wallace Stegner’s irritation with cowboys—as expressed in “Who Are the Westerners?” (December 1987 issue)—has always been shared by most residents of smaller Western towns, as is shown very well by the following historical newspaper articles:

From the River Press , Fort Benton, Montana, November 17. 1880: “ COWBOYS ON THE: WARPATH, TWO OF THEM KILLED AT THE SNAKE RIVER BRIDGE . For some time the herders on Snake River, commonly known as cow-boys, have been emulating the deeds of their kind in Texas and have established a reign of terror in the towns where they meet or pass through on their drives and are as desperate and reckless marauders as ever infested any country. Mr. S. E. Larabee, who returned November 1st, says that about ten days ago they kicked up a mess at Blackfoot, breaking in windows and running the town for a while, but that citizens rallied and put the worst one in jail. On the 28th, two or more of them came to Anderson’s store at Snake River bridge, shot the dog and chickens and finally fired into the store, presumably at one of the storekeepers who had remonstrated with them. They then went toward the corral. Two men from the store followed them with guns. When near the corral, the two cow-boys jumped up and fired but missed. The store men then fired, killing one of the cow-boys and a shot fired by another person killed the second one….”

From the Cheyenne Daily Leader , October 3, 1882: “Morally, as a class, they are foulmouthed, blasphemous, drunken, lecherous, utterly corrupt. Usually harmless on the plains when sober, they are dreaded in towns, for the liquor has the ascendency over them.”

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "February 1988"

It’s not surprising that Democrats seek to wrap themselves in the Roosevelt cloak; what’s harder to understand is why so many Republicans do too. A distinguished historian explains.

Authored by: Ormonde De Kay

He claimed his critics didn’t like his work because it was “too noisy,” but he didn’t care what any of them said. George Luks’s determination to paint only what interested him was his greatest strength—and his greatest weakness.

Authored by: Otto Friedrich

The United States had promised black soldiers that they would be paid as much as whites. Sergeant Walker believed that promise.

Authored by: Timothy C. Forbes

It depends on whose interpretation of both history and the current crisis you believe. For one of America’s most prominent supply-side economists, the answer is yes.

Authored by: E. N. Coons

An astonishing saga of endurance and high courage told by a man who lived through it

Authored by: Neil A. Grauer

The dour radio comedian regarded his work as totally ephemeral, but a new generation of comics has built upon his foundations

Featured Articles

Famous writers including Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and the Alcotts turned Sleepy Hollow Cemetery into our country’s first conservation project.

Native American peoples and the lands they possessed loomed large for Washington, from his first trips westward as a surveyor to his years as President.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.

A hundred years ago, America was rocked by riots, repression, and racial violence.

During Pres. Washington’s first term, an epidemic killed one tenth of all the inhabitants of Philadelphia, then the capital of the young United States.

Now a popular state park, the unassuming geological feature along the Illinois River has served as the site of centuries of human habitation and discovery.  

The recent discovery of the hull of the battleship Nevada recalls her dramatic action at Pearl Harbor and ultimate revenge on D-Day as the first ship to fire on the Nazis.

Our research reveals that 19 artworks in the U.S. Capitol honor men who were Confederate officers or officials. What many of them said, and did, is truly despicable.

Here is probably the most wide-ranging look at Presidential misbehavior ever published in a magazine.

When Germany unleashed its blitzkreig in 1939, the U.S. Army was only the 17th largest in the world. FDR and Marshall had to build a fighting force able to take on the Nazis, against the wishes of many in Congress.

Roast pig, boiled rockfish, and apple pie were among the dishes George and Martha enjoyed during the holiday in 1797. Here are some actual recipes.

Born during Jim Crow, Belle da Costa Greene perfected the art of "passing" while working for one of the most powerful men in America.