Q&A Questions and Answers:
Hello Cowboy Bob!
I am a Montessori teacher in Oklahoma. In January, we begin a unit on the West. I have been looking, but to no avail, for the "names" given to those on a cattle drive; ie cookie, etc. Do you have a listing of these names and their responsibilities on a drive?
I don't recall seeing any such list myself, so I'll do my best to give you a brief one:
On a cattle drive, the herding positions were:
The Trail Boss who was in charge of the entire operation -- a large part of which involved keeping track of the brands of the cattle involved in the drive. Animals from several ranches were often involved in a single drive -- with all of the stock being marked with a "road brand" for the drive. On the trail, the Trail Boss directed the daily travel, selecting the route, stopping places, etc., as well as making decisions about what to do with injured animals or calves born on the trail, settling disputes among the cowhands, dealing with folks encountered along the way, etc.
On a larger drive, the Trail Boss might be assisted by a foreman, or "Segundo."
The drovers were assigned to several positions around the herd:
Point (or pointer) -- also known as the lead or van. These cowhands rode at the front of the herd, guiding the cattle as the Trail Boss directed. Part of that point job involved keeping the lead steer (or bell cow) going in the correct direction. With a good lead steer the whole drive would go a lot easier.
Following them were the outriders, who were assigned to one of four positions:
Left or right swing (or wing), riding on either side of the herd where it started to swell. They tried to keep the herd tight and went after any strays. When the outriders had to go after strays that tried to escape in the brush, they were sometimes dubbed "brush-poppers."
Left or right flank -- riding further back, they kept the herd moving in a line, while also picking up and turning back any strays.
The least desirable position was drag -- the "dust-eaters." These drovers rode at the back of the herd, keeping it moving forward.
While in camp, the drovers took turns as Night Herders, also known as Nighthawks -- circling the herd to watch for strays and predators and trying to prevent stampedes.
The Wrangler had charge of the remuda -- the spare horses needed for the drive. With often more than 100 horses in the remuda, this was no small task.
The Cook (or cookie) was probably the most important person on the drive, and had what was perhaps the most tiring job. Up long before sunrise and long after sunset, Cookie had to prepare meals (often in adverse conditions) that kept the crew happy and well-fed, as well as driving the chuck wagon between camps. (Chuckwagon photo courtesy of Library of Congress.)
I hope this gives you what you need!
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