Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cowboy Cussin'

Don’t hide your eyes! It’s not a blog about four letter words. While trying to come up with some different curse words for my heroes to use in sticky situations, I turned to my faithful “Cowboy Lingo” by Ramon F. Adams. Much to my surprise, cowboys rarely used curse words. Anyway that was what the book said, being a non-believer (mainly because I don’t believe a rough, tough, macho cowboy wouldn’t curse with the best of them) I started web browsing and lo and behold- everywhere I looked it said the same thing.
Cowboys didn’t use the usual curse words, except for on occasions where one word would do; they cussed. You’re saying what’s the difference? To curse is to use profane language. To cuss is a term of abuse or a derogatory term.
Cowboys took huge delight in coming up with the best cussin’ they could think of. They spent hours in the saddle chasing obnoxious, flea-ridden, scour-covered, ornery critters. The more colorful and picturesque they could make the cuss the happier they were with getting the problem off their chests.
They were right proud of themselves when “airing their lungs” not only got the cattle movin’ but stopped the person they were cussin’ in their tracks to think about what they’d said. It was felt by many a cow puncher that the only way to get the cattle movin’ was to cuss up a storm. They didn’t limit their string of blasphemy to simple words either. They’d throw in a Spanish word and some sophisticated word they heard at one time or another. Anything to give the rant a good sting to the person or animal they were cussin’.
He used language most people understood and painted a picture that could be seen, heard, and smelled. His cussin’ and story tellin’ was the beginning of today’s cowboy poets.

Below is a poem by Terry Henderson, cowboy poet. It shows the lyrical quality the cowboys strived for and the vastness of their imaginations. You can find more of Terry’s poems at: http://www.cowboypoetry.com/terryhenderson.htm

Cursin' the Yearlin's
We began the trail quite early. We were out before the dawn.
The group saddled up the horses, headed out with several yawns.

We spread around the pasture to encircle that young herd.
It was time to move the yearlin's. Of a run, we were assured.

The yearlin’s are like human teens, more energy than sense.
The smallest noise, the slightest move will make them scared and tense.

We made it through the first run and kept them in control.
We settled into trailin’. I rode forward on patrol.

I was lookin’ for stray cattle that might be in the way.
We didn’t want no mixin’ or we’d not get done today.

A couple miles later, the herd headed up a hill.
Quakies grew on either side. The lead began to mill.

Comin’ up before us was a canyon, long and steep.
Just before we got there, in a fog began to creep.

I was ridin’ up on point when I saw the lead steer go.
He headed into aspens and the canyon down below.

My horse responded quickly to head them back uphill.
But the thickened fog around me made my vision nearly nil.

I began to yell my loudest, to scare them to the trail.
They must be turned around or we will lose them in this vale.

“You chigger-headed flea spit! You ig’norant snake-eyed hog.
Turn your rattle headed rock brains ‘round here in this stiflin’ fog.

Git back you scrawny horn fly hosts. Ya’d better find that trail,
‘cause runnin’ down this canyon will come to no avail.

You wand’rin’ sons of Satan. You nightmare’s blackest dream,”
were only some of things I said, to yearlin’s that I screamed.

“You’ll not live to make the mountain top, you crusty leather hides.”
My threatening spread eerily, echoed in from several sides.

The steers slowed their run, more frightened from the noises all unseen,
and the ghostly shapes a movin’ in that pea-soup foggy sheen.

We finally got them headed back and strung along the trail.
An hour later, sun appeared, though misty and still pale.

When we finally reached the cow camp, an old neighbor said to me:
“I don’t believe I ever heard you cuss so angrily.

I don’t believe I’ve ever heard another cowboy say
quite like you did, the things I heard, while trailin’ cows today.

It must’a worked, those things you said, cause we got here with the herd.
Though I admit I felt right creepy when my eyes, by fog, were blurred.

I hope I never have to hear you curse another cow.
I felt real bad a learnin’ I just thought that I knew how.


Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

That really is a surprise, Paty. I would have thought cuss words would have started with these men on the trail.

Linda LaRoque said...

Really loved this, Paty and so true. Movies and television have really distorted the true image of real cowboys.

Lauri said...

Loved the poem, I've read other's by him. AND I'm going to make my husband read this blog. He was taken with "Deadwood", and I really disliked that show! It was so full of swearing, I couldn't watch it. I'm kept telling everyone, cowboys didn't curse like that, and now I have proof!

Loretta said...

Enjoyed the post, the poem and reading about how cowboys cussing is so different from today's profanity. In fact, it's down-right refreshing that cowboys were so creative in their language. Folks today could take a few lessons.


Debra St. John said...

This is really interesting, Paty. I never would have thought. I like the difference between cussin' and cursin'! Thanks for sharing.

Kathryn Albright said...

Really enjoyed this post Paty. Very informative. And I really liked the poem.

Helen said...

Hey Paty, that poem was a hoot!

Anne Carrole said...

I just loved this blog Paty and thanks for sharing the poem. And I totally agree with Lauri's comment on Deadwood and the swearing. It kept me from enjoying what would have been a great western. Speaking of great Westerns, I saw Appaloosa last night and loved it. Don't recall hearing much of any swearing either!:)

Anonymous said...

Loved your post, Patty. The cowboy cussin title caught my eye and I had to take a look. I love those obnoxious, flea-ridden, scour-covered, ornery critter chasers. Fun!!!

Kathy Otten said...

What happened to, "When you call me that,smile!"

Tanya Hanson said...

Great post, Paty. And I learned something new! Thanks for the info.

I know Deadwood was totally off the mark, but it seems a good hell or damn once in a while might be expected LOL.

I just finished Perfetly Good Nanny and I loved it. Thanks for a great sexy and emotional tale.

I did hear the f-word in Appaloosa and was kinda disappointed. It's SUCH a word I can live without. Sigh.

Cate Masters said...

What a fun post, Paty! I can't decide which cuss I like better: You chigger-headed flea spit or you scrawny horn fly hosts or you wand’rin’ sons of Satan. Really interesting stuff!

Paty Jager said...

Hi Paisley, thanks for stopping by!

Linda, So true, to appeal to this generation they give cowboys characteristics that aren't totally accurate.

You're welcome, Lauri. ;)

True, Loretta!

You're welcome, Debra.

Kathryn and Helen, if you like the poem to go Terry's site. She has some other great stuff. I love the one about the 4-H calf. Brings back memories of my kids.

Thanks, Anne, I've been wondering about that movie. I might be able to drag my dh to it. He actually went to 3:10 to Yuma with me at the theater. First time we'd set foot in a theater in ten years!

Caroline- LOL Thanks- that was my attempt at cursing. I actually use the profanity when chasing cows and my husband finds it down right hysterical! Maybe I need to cuss next time and he won't laugh at me. Hmmm...

Hi Kathy!

Tanya, I'm glad you like Perfectly Good Nanny. It was a fun, from the heart book to write.

Hi Cate, Yeah, they used and still, as you can see by the poem, some great , colorful wording.

Thank you all for stopping by!