Cowboy Bob's Dictionary

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SAA - Acronym for the Colt Single Action Army revolver, also known as the Colt Peacemaker, Colt .45 and The Equalizer. (See Colt Single Action Army.)

Sack Out - To desensitize a horse from shying by brushing it with a cloth item such as a saddle blanket until it no longer flinches. So called because feed sacks were once commonly used for the process. Sacking Out a Horse

Saddle - 1. A seat for the rider of a horse. (Click on thumbnail picture for the parts of a saddle.)
2. A saddle-shaped pass or ridge that slopes gently between two peaks.
Parts of a saddle

Saddle blanket - 1. A blanket or pad placed under a saddle. 2. A pancake. Also called a Splatter Dab.

Saddle Bow - 1. The pommel and/or cantle, forming a curved connection between the side pieces of a saddle tree. 2. The handgrip formed by the raised front part of a saddle Saddle Tree showing the Bows

Saddle Bum - A drifting cowboy.

Saddle Horn - A prominent projection (usually metal covered with leather) on top of the pommel of a saddle used for dallying a rope or as a handhold (as in cutting competitions). Saddle Horn

Saddle Seat - A style of English horsemanship designed to display the exagerated action of certain breeds -- especially the American Saddlebred -- with minimal obvious control by the rider. Saddle Seat competitors use a special saddle featuring a flat seat, cut-back pommel, and minimal padding.

Saddle sore - 1. An equine skin injury caused by irritation from a saddle or other tack. It frequently occurs in the region of the withers and may result in a hairless patch or area of white hair.
2. A saddle sore in humans is a skin injury on a person's posterior resulting from friction while riding on a horse or bicycle saddle.

Saddle Stiff - A tramp on horseback. See Saddle Tramp. also referred to as a "saddle warmer" or "saddle slicker."

Saddle Strings - Narrow leather straps for attaching items to a saddle. Saddle Strings

Saddle Tramp - A cowboy with wanderlust, staying on a job just long enough to earn the "road stake" needed to carry him over the next horizon. A cowboy searching for a job

Saddle Tree - (See "Tree.")

Saguaro - Scientific name: Carnegiea gigantea; pronounced "sah-WAH-ro." A large cactus native to Arizona's Sonoran Desert, the Mexican State of Sonora, and California's Whipple Mountains and Imperial County. The saguaro blossom is the state wildflower of Arizona. Saguaro

Salt Pork - Salt-cured fat from the back, sides, or belly of a hog. In frontier days, salt pork was an important source of calories and the salt lost in sweat during hot weather or hard work. Salt Pork

Sand - Stamina, staying power. See "Grit."

Sashay - A square dance movement in which partners circle each other, taking sideways steps. To walk with a lofty, proud manner, often in an attempt to impress others. To take a pleasure trip.

Savvy - Used as both a verb and a noun, meaning to have understanding or knowledge. From the Spanish word "sabe," know.

Sawbones - A doctor, especially one who specializes in surgery.

Sawbuck - 1. A sawhorse, especially one having a crossed pair of legs at each end.
2. Slang for a ten-dollar bill.
3. A type of pack saddle with X-shaped braces.

Scalawag - Originally, a White Southerner who supported Reconstruction policies after the Civil War, usually in a self-serving way. A mean, deceitful, or unreliable scoundrel.

Scattergun - A shotgun.

Score - 1. Total number of points in a competition. 2. The distance between the chute opening and the scoreline, or the amount of head start given to a steer or calf in a roping or steering wrestling event. The length of the score is usually determined by the size of the arena or other local conditions. Calf roping with short score

Scoreline - The starting point for the rider(s) in a roping or bulldogging event. A rider crossing the scoreline before the calf or steer is released from the chute results in a disqualification.

Scours - Diarrhea in livestock, often caused by an E. coli infection. Young calves are especially susceptible to scours.

Scratches - A skin problem on the lower legs of horses, caused by a fungus (and sometimes complicated by bacteria). Also known as "greasy heel," "mud fever," "dew poisoning," "dew fever," and "pastern disease." Horse with scratches

Screwworm - The larva of the Screwworm Fly (also known as the Blowfly), which can be parasitic in humans and animals. Srewworms are distinctive in that they eat the living flesh of mammals -- unlike most maggots, which eat only dead flesh.

Scrub Cattle - See Corriente.

Seat - 1. The part of the saddle on which the rider sits. See "Saddle" for an illustration.
2. A rider's posture, or way of sitting, on horseback.

Seed Ox - A euphemism for a bull; used in the presence of women or other polite company. See "Surly."

Segundo - A foreman, or second-in-command. A Spanish word meaning "second."

Set Store By - To place a lot of value upon; to appreciate.

Shaft - 1. One of two poles between which a horse is hitched. See "Thill."
2. One of two shanks on the side of a curb bit, designed to apply extra leverage to the "port" and "curb chain."

Shake hands with St. Peter - To die and go to Heaven.
In certain Christian traditions, St. Peter is said to be the gatekeeper of heaven, holding the keys to the celestial domain. A believer, upon arriving at the heavenly portal, would thus "Shake hands with St. Peter." The belief is based on the Gospel of Matthew 16:18-19:
18  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19  And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Shambling - Walking with a slow dragging motion without lifting your feet, as in a horse with a shambling trot.

Shank's Mare - See Ride Shank's Mare.

Sharps Rifle - A large-bore breech loading single-shot rifle designed by gunmaker Christian Sharps. It was produced in a variety of configurations from 1850 to 1881. It used an adjustable open ladder sight. Sharps Rifle

Shave Tail - A newly trained person or animal. Initially, shaving the tail of a mule indicated that it was freshly broken and could not yet be trusted. In time it came to refer to a person with little experience or training. As part of military jargon, it became a derogatory term for a second lieutenant or other newly commissioned officer.

Sheet Bend - Similar in structure to the bowline, the Sheet Bend knot is used to join two ropes together. It is very fast to tie, and along with the bowline and clove hitch is considered one of the most essential knots for a cowboy to know. It has the disadvantage of tending to work loose when not under a load. Sheet Bend knot

Sheriff - The main law-enforcement officer of a county or parish.

Shield - A dark Pinto marking where the horse has a dark colored chest surrounded completely by white. A pony with a shield marking

Shindig - A boisterous party or dance. So named because a dancer who "kicked up his heels" too high could end up digging a heel into another dancer's shin.

Shinplaster - Paper money of little value issued by businesses and individuals in the 1830s and again in the 1860s on questionable security. Shinplasters were used in an effort to offset a shortage of coins at the time. The name came from the scrip's resemblance to a type of adhesive bandage called a "sticking plaster" or "shin plaster."

Shoot From the Hip - To speak or act quickly and forcefully; to not waste time or make unnecessary motions. Derived from the fast-draw technique of firing a pistol immediately after it clears the holster and while it is still at hip level, without bringing it up to aim.

Shooting Iron - A six-gun or a rifle.

Short-Coupled - A horse having a fairly short back. Descendants of Arab Barb horses are often short-coupled if they inherit the Barb trait of having one less pair of ribs than other breeds.

Shorts - The bran and coarse part of meal or flour; the lowest grade of flour, frequently used by frontier families as a matter of economy.

Shotgun Chaps - Leather leggings that completely encircle the legs and fasten tightly around the ankles. Shotgun Chaps

Shuck-beans - Beans shelled out of the pod.

Shy - To swerve aside suddenly because of an unexpected object, motion, or noise; to be startled.

Side Buster - A hillarious joke or story; as in "I almost busted my side laughing."

Sidekick - A close friend, working companion, or associate. "Kick" in underworld jargon referred to a pocket on the front of a pair of pants, generally considered the safest place from pickpockets. Thus, a Sidekick is a companion who helps to keep you safe.

Sidesaddle - A saddle specially designed for women, on which the rider sits with both legs on the same side of the horse. A set of curved posts on the left side of the saddle hold the rider's legs in position while the upper torso is turned slightly to a fairly normal riding pose. Properly adjusted, a sidesaddle is secure enough that it can be ridden at a gallop and even be used for jumping low obstacles. Women with sidesaddles

Sidewinder - A small, pale-colored desert rattlesnake that moves in an s-shaped curve. Also called a horned rattlesnake because of the raised scales above its eyes which give it a horn-like appearance. Because of the sidewinder's tendancy to attack while covered with sand or in a burrow, the term is also applied to a man who has a reputation for being treacherous. Sidewinder

Silver Thaw - A slight warm spell, followed by rain and then by freezing weather, resulting in a silvery ice coating on the landscape.

Single Action - A firearm which must be cocked before the trigger is pulled. The trigger performs the single action of releasing the hammer, which causes the weapon to fire.

Single Action Army - See Colt Single Action Army.

Single Rigged - A saddle having one cinch. The cinch may be positioned at any of several different distances from the front of the saddle, such as full rigging (directly below the pommel), 7/8 rigging (7/8 of the distance from the cantle to the fork), Centerfire rigging, etc.

Singletree - A crossbar to which the traces or tugs of a draft horse harness are attached for pulling a vehicle. Also called a whippletree or swingletree, and sometimes incorrectly referred to as a whiffletree. The singletree may be considered an element of a doubletree. Single and double trees on a wagon

Six Gun - A six-shot revolver.

Six-in-hand - A team of six horses harnessed in pairs,one pair in front of another.

Six Shooter - A six-shot revolver.

Skedaddle - To leave quickly, as if in a panic. Skedaddle was a dialect word in the north of England by at least the early 1800s and meant "to spill." In North America, "skedaddle" in its current usage became popular around the time of the Civil War.

Skewbald - A pinto colored white and any other color except black. Also sometimes called a piebald. A skewbald horse

Skirt - 1. The part of a saddle which extends down on the flank of a horse. See "Saddle" for an illustration. Also see "Flank Skirt."
2. Slang for "woman."

Skittish - A horse that is unpredictably excitable.

Skookum - A Chinook Native American word with a variety of meanings including big, strong, fearsome, capable, or excellent.

Skunk eggs - Onions.

Sky pilot - A preacher or chaplain, especially a circuit rider who ministers the Gospel in multiple locations to working men such as cowboys or lumberjacks. A sky pilot praying with rodeo cowboys

Sky-tickling - Being bucked straight up so high the rider seems to "tickle the sky."

Slack - When there are too many contestants in a rodeo performance, some compete outside the performance in "slack" time.

Sleepering - A method of rustling cattle where -- under cover of darkness -- unbranded cattle were moved to the pen which held the branded stock. When the animals were turned back out on the range, the thieves would catch the unmarked stock and slap their own brand on them.

Sleigh - A vehicle mounted on large runners -- curling and turned up in front -- pulled by horses or dogs and designed for transporting people over snow and ice. Sleigh

Slick Ears - Cattle ears that aren't marked by cutting.

Slick Seat Saddle - A saddle with a smooth surface on the seat for ease of shifting side-to-side in giving leg and balance cues to the horse. Such cues are greatly impeded by Suede or Rough-Out Seats. Slick Seat Saddle

Slicker - A long rain coat, slit front and back to allow the wearer to sit on a saddle, and often with snaps to fasten the material around the wearer's legs. Cowboy Bob wearing a slicker

Slickfork - An "A Fork" saddle.

Slider - A wide, flat horseshoe, also called a Sliding Plate; used on the hind hooves of reining horses to help them perform an exaggerated sliding stop. Slider

Slow Brand - A brand not registered with a state board or other brand registry.

Slow elk - Beef (the meat).

Smoke Pole - A firearm, especially a rifle.

Snaffle Bit - A simple jointed bit for a horse; without a curb. Snaffle Bit

Snaggy - Snappish; cross; ill-tempered.

Snake Oil - A liquid patent medicine (sometimes sold by a travelling medicine show) of little or no actual medicinal value.

Snake Out - Drag or haul out, as one would drag a snake from its hole.

Snip - A small white marking near a horse's nostrils. Horse with a snip

Snowball - A buildup of hard-packed snow on the underside of a horse's hoof which makes it difficult for the horse to walk. Snowball on a horse's hoof

Snubbing Post - A heavy post in a corral or arena around which a rope is thrown to check the motion of an untrained horse. Snubbing Post

Sock - A white marking that extends over the fetlock, but not reaching the knee or hock. It is sometimes called a "boot." Sock

Sod House - A building constructed by stacking turf slabs together. A common pioneer building method on the tree-less Great Plains. Sod House

Soda sinker - biscuit.

Sodbuster - A frontier farmer; by extension a farmer who plants crops.

Soddy - See Sod House..

Soogan - See Sugan.

Sop - Gravy made from bacon grease and flour.

Sorrel - 1. A horse color ranging from a red-yellow to golden-yellow. The mane, tail, and legs are usually variations of the coat color. Essentially synonymous with the color chestnut. Sorrel horse

Sougan - See Sugan.

Sour - Resentful, bitter, petulant, peevish. A "barn sour" horse resents having to leave the barn.

Sourdough - 1. A kind of bread prepared using starter dough from a previous batch, rather than commercial yeast. 2. A mining prospector.

Sowbelly - Bacon. Also called "Chuckwagon chicken."

Span - A pair of horses that are very much alike and harnessed side by side. A span of horses

Spavin - A disease of horses characterized by a bony swelling of the hock joint due to inflammation; resulting in lameness.

Spider Straps - Narrow leather straps that hold a cinch ring in place on some saddles (especially military-style saddles). Also called quarter straps. Spider Straps

Spinner - A bull or horse that bucks in close, tight circles.

Splatter Dab - A pancake or flapjack. Also called a Saddle Blanket.

Split Reins - Reins with unconnected ends.

Spoke - 1. A support joining the hub of a wheel to the rim. 2. The portion of a lasso between the honda and the roper's hand. Also called the "Stem."

Spook - To frighten or scare, possibly provoking a violent reaction.

Spooky - Afraid; nervous.

Spread - A ranch, including the land, buildings, livestock, etc.

Spur - 1. An apparatus that goes around the heel of a boot, used to prod a horse to be more active. 2. To prod into activity. Spurs

Spur Ledge - An extention of the sole of a cowboy boot, the Spur Ledge is a small lip which keeps a spur from slipping down onto the boot's heel. It is sometimes called a "spur rest." Spur Ledge

Square Knot - A knot made of two reversed half-knots and typically used to join the ends of a single cord or rope around an object such as a bundle. It is made with a right-over-left followed by a left-over-right Overhand Knot (or vice-versa). (See illustration.) Square Knot

Squatter - Someone who settles on land without legal right or title to the property.

Squeeze Chute - A narrow chute for confining cattle during branding, vaccinating, etc. Squeeze Chute

Stagecoach - A horse-drawn coach used to carry passengers and mail on regular routes from one station -- or "stage" -- to another. Medora Stage and Forwarding Company

Stallion - An adult male horse.

Stampede - 1. A runaway herd. 2. To cause folks to panic or act impulsively.

Stampede string - A string placed under the chin or around the back of the head to keep a rider's hat from blowing off. Stampede string

Stamping Iron - A branding iron that burns a specific mark or design into an animal's hide (as opposed to a plain, or running iron.) Stamping Irons

Stanchion - A vertical bar for confining a cow in a stall.

Standardbred - A registered harness racing horse. Standardbreds are so called because in the early years only horses that could run a mile within a certain time standard were entered in the the standardbred stud book established by the National Association of Trotting Horse Breeders. All Standardbreds are descended from an English thoroughbred named Messenger, who came to the United States in 1788.

Star - A more-or-less symmetrical white marking on a horse's forehead. Horse with a star

Star Post - See T-Post.

Stave - One of two poles between which a horse is hitched. See "Thill." Thill

Stayer - A person or animal having great powers of endurance or perseverance.

Steeldust - A horse with dark salt-and-pepper gray coloring. A Steeldust horse lying on sand

Steer - A neutered bull. See also "Ox."

Steer Wrestling - A rodeo contest in which the competitor attempts to throw a steer to the ground. (Also called "Bulldogging.")

Stem - See Spoke.

Stetson - A wide-brimmed felt hat, popular with cowboys. Originally a brand name for hats manufactured by John B. Stetson of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it quickly became a generic term for Western styled hats in general.

Stiff - A person, especially a vagrant, tramp, or blue-collar worker. "That poor stiff never gets a break." At the other extreme, it may refer to a stodgy, stuck-up or rigidly decorous person.

Stink Weed - See Jimsonweed.

Stirrup - A metal or wood ring, sometimes covered with leather, attached to a strap which is fastened to the saddle to hold the foot of the rider. It is used to assist a person in mounting a horse, enabling the rider to sit steadily, and supporting part of the weight of the body. Stirrup

Stirrup Hood - See Tapadera

Stirrup Leather - A strap that supports a stirrup. A Stirrup Leather may be an extension of the Fender or a separate strap that connects to the Fender. Stirrup Leather

Stirrup Strap - (Also known as a Hobble Strap or Keeper) A small buckled strap that holds the stirrup leather and fender together. It prevents the stirrup from turning over if you fall from the horse, which could cause your foot to become tangled in the stirrup. Stirrup Strap

Stitching Bench - A combined seat and clamp that holds leather in place for sewing; also known as a Harness Horse. Stitching Bench

Stock contractor - One who supplies livestock to rodeos, such as saddle or bareback broncs, bulls, roping calves, or steers. He may also supply the hands to run the rodeo.

Stocking - A white leg marking extending at least as high as the knee or hock. Stockings

Stockyard - A large enclosure, usually divided into several pens, where animals are held prior to shipment or slaughter. Kansas City Stockyards

Stomp - 1. A stampede. 2. A dance.

Stove-up - Badly injured, as by a fall from a horse or other accident.

Straight Arrow - The same as Straight Shooter: An honest and forthright person; someone whose shots don't miss. Derived from the ability of a straight arrow to fly more "true" and hit a mark better than a crooked or bent one.

Straight Shooter - An honest and forthright person; someone whose shots don't miss. See also Straight Arrow

Strangles - An infectious, contagious disease bacterial disease of horses, donkeys, and mules in which mucous membranes in the upper part of the throat, or groups of lymphatic glands elsewhere, swell.

Strawberry roan - A red roan, having a mixture of red and white hairs all over the body, with red, black, or flaxen mane and tail.

Stray - An animal that has wandered away from a herd or off its home range.

String - A group of horses; a cavvy. String of horses

Stripe - a narrow, white marking on the front of a horse's head and extending from the forehead to the nose. Horse with a stripe

Stud Chain - See "Lead Chain."

Studebaker - Long before they became a manufacturer of automobiles, the Studebaker company cranked out hundreds of thousands of wagons and carriages, becoming the world’s largest producer of horse-drawn vehicles. It has been estimated that in the days of westward migration and wagon train pioneering, half of the wagons used were Studebakers. Studebaker wagon

Sudadero - A Spanish word for any item that protects a rider from a horse's sweat, such as a bareback or saddle pad or the leather fender of a Western saddle. (In Spanish, sudadero literally means "sweat-er." See also "Basto" and Fender.

Suede, or Rough-Out Seat, Saddle - A saddle seat covered with suede-like material to help keep an unskilled rider from sliding around too much. Such seats tend to become uncomfortable quickly because of the increased friction between the seat and the rider; they also hinder good leg cues. Suede Seat Saddle

Sugan, soogan or sougan - A wool blanket, down-filled quilt or featherbed which was wrapped in a waterproof canvas cover; a sleeping bag or bedroll. Cowboy with his sougan

Sugar Settlings - Coffee grounds. Arbuckle's coffee beans were coated with an egg white and sugar glaze which made the coffee and its dregs slightly sweet. Cowhands would often try to coax the very last sweet-tasting grounds from their cups.

Suicide Rigging - In rodeo bareback riding, a rope which is wrapped around the rider's hand in such a way that the rope holds the rider's hand, rather than the rider holding the rope.

Suitcase Rancher - An absentee ranch owner; a remittance man.

Sulky - A light two-wheeled carriage for a single person. The sulky is used extensively in harness racing. Racing sulky

Summer sores - A skin condition of horses caused when stomach worm larvae are deposited on injured or irritated skin tissue or mucous membranes. Called "Jack Sores" in mules and donkeys, the condition is often worse in warm weather, hence the name "Summer Sores." See Q&A 30. What can be done about Summer Sores?.

Sumpter - A pack or burden. By extension, to carry a pack; an animal such as a horse or mule that carries packs; or the driver of a pack animal.

Sunfishing - When a horse rears and twists its body violently from side to side, rolling its belly upward toward the sun, it is said to be sunfishing. Sunfishing bronc

Surcingle - A bareback strap that fastens around a horse's girth area, running from the ribcage up to the withers area. It may have many rings attached, or one or more hand holds. Surcingle

Surly - A cowboy euphemism for a bull or other mean-spirited, menacing creature. In the 19th and early 20th centuries most cowboys' sexual sensitivities were so strong that they wouldn't even use the word "bull" in front of a lady. Other polite terms for a male bovine included "cow brute," "a gentleman cow," "a top cow," or a "seed ox."

Swamp Cattle - See Corriente.

Swamper - (Derived from Middle English "sompter" a servant, especially one who drives a pack horse.) A general laborer or helper, as in a restaurant or saloon, or at a ranch.

Sway-backed - Having a hollow or sagged back, either naturally or as the result of injury or weakness.

Sweat Leather - See Fender.

Swells - The shoulders, or outer sides, of the pommel or fork. The swells may be slick or undercut. See "Saddle" for an illustration.

Swing Rider - A cowboy who rides on either side of the herd where it starts to swell. He tries to keep the herd tight and pushes strays back into the herd. (For more information on trail drive jobs, see Q & A page 216 - What were the various positions on a cattle drive?)

Swingletree - See Singletree

Switchback - A route that zig-zags across a slope to avoid traveling directly up a steep incline. Switchbacks

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