Here Come the Cowboys

Here Come the Cowboys

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The Detroit Lions have been playing football on Thanksgiving Day since 1934. But what about the Cowboys? NFL Films researcher Chris Willis and football commentator Sal Paolantonio explain how the Dallas Cowboys joined in the Detroit Lions tradition.

The History of American Cowboys Makes One Thing Real Clear…

A cowboy’s best friend was often his horse. They depended on each other, the cowboy and his horse… and it is said they could herd cattle in their sleep. It is from this remarkable group of men that the fine art of breeding and training reining horses and cutting horses have evolved.

From 1865 to 1880, at least 3.5 million cattle were driven—in herds of between 1,500 and 3,000—from southern Texas to cattle towns in Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming. The route most frequently used was the Chisholm Trail, which went to Abilene, Kansas– one of the wildest towns in the west.

Working up to 20 hours a day, cowboys drove the animals from one watering place to the next, guarding against predators, straying cattle, and the dreaded stampedes at night. Cowboys daily faced many obstacles and dangers. For his hard and demanding work the typical cowboy earned between $25 and $40 a month.

Black cowboys reclaim their history in the West

As the sun sets over Phoenix’s South Mountain Park on a crisp desert evening, dust swirls over the park’s outdoor riding arena. Laughter carries from the stands and into the mountains as four men and their horses take turns flying around blue barrels and over the pockmarked dirt. They call themselves “As the Crows Fly,” after their unique riding style — blazing over obstacles instead of around them. The Crows work as a team in a kind of horseback relay, training for the annual Arizona Black Rodeo.

Wearing a beige cowboy hat, jean vest, bandanna and worn leather boots, Ricky Magee, who works as an IT technician by day, waits in the middle of the ring atop Cajun, his umber-colored horse, until it is their turn. Just as his partner approaches the last barrel, the two burst out to receive the baton. But as Magee grabs the baton and Cajun catches her stride, the horse steps into one of the many craters in the well-worn dirt. Cajun tumbles to the ground and Magee lands inches away.

In years when a pandemic has not shut down everything, the rodeo is a way to acknowledge African Americans’ long-neglected contributions to Western history. The rodeo celebrates the accomplishments of men like Bill Pickett, a Black cowboy in the late 19th century who started off as a ranch hand in Texas and became a rodeo star famous for his steer-wrestling technique. And Bass Reeves, a deputy U.S. marshal who was famous for the arrest of thousands of criminals in Oklahoma and Arkansas, and who, some historians suspect, was the inspiration for the fictional Lone Ranger.

Though historians estimate that as many as one-fourth of the cowboys in the late 1800s were Black, many of them have been erased from the history of the “Wild West.” But at a ranch in South Phoenix owned by David Knight, a retired Black trucker from Indiana, the riding group is reclaiming that history. Though these men are aware of their historical erasure, they are not on some grand crusade to right the wrongs of the past. As far as they’re concerned, they’re simply sharing the traditions that were passed down to them.

Nijhel Motley, 24 + Little Bits
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Nijhel Motley, the youngest of the group, comes from a horseback-riding family: His mother rode while she was pregnant with him, and his father raced quarter horses in Philadelphia, their hometown. Motley rode before he even knew how to walk. Now, Motley studies sports communications at Arizona State University but spends most of his free time on ranches caring for and training horses.

“Rodeo does something good for the soul,” he said. “It gives me a sense of empowerment. We’re doing our part by showing people in this area and in this community that there are Black cowboys around here. There’s always been.”

Motley is well aware of the erasure of Black cowboys from history and the current barriers to their participation in rodeo. “When you don’t have the land and the money and the funds, it’s easy for you to get pushed under the rug,” he said. “It’s a lot harder for us to break through that seal, but it’s happening.”

Jerrae Walker, 36 + Cinnamon
Gary, Indiana

Jerrae Walker’s father competed on the Black rodeo circuit, so he spent much of his childhood on the road. The Bill Pickett African American circuit held its first rodeo in 1984 in Denver, and his father’s group followed that circuit and the Thyrl Latting Rodeo Spectacular, another Black circuit, throughout the Midwest. Growing up around rodeos, Walker never felt excluded from mainstream cowboy culture. Horses were just part of his life. “That was what was available,” he said. “A majority of the people that were riding, and a majority of people in Gary, Indiana were Black.”

Walker joined the Marines at 17. After four years and two tours on the frontlines of Iraq, he left the military and eventually settled in Phoenix, seeking a change of pace. He purchased Cinnamon, a strawberry blond quarter horse, and connected with the group of cowboys at Knight’s ranch. The cowboys lacked a large practice space of their own, so Walker bought some land of his own. “I try to lead by example,” he said.

Ricky Magee, 35 + Cajun
Franklinton, Louisiana

As a kid, Ricky Magee helped his uncle train horses. “He believed that if a child can ride, or a young man can ride, that the horse is ready to go and it has enough manners to do a show,” Magee said. “I got hooked from just riding and training the horses.”

Magee and his uncle traveled from his hometown of Franklinton, Louisiana, to Mississippi to showcase the horses. The tradition originated on his grandfather’s 40 acres, where he’d raised horses and cattle. For Magee, the riding wasn’t just a hobby, but a way to make extra money. Magee’s uncle helped him buy Cajun, a quarter horse with a blond mane, from a ranch in Oklahoma seven years ago. Magee moved to Phoenix about a year ago, excited about living in the “Wild West,” he said, where people ride horses in the streets and openly carry guns. Knight’s ranch felt like a secret society. “I didn’t think Black people thought it was cool to ride horses,” he said. “I’ve been called country for a long time.”

Shaheed Muhammad, 32 + Shaka
South Central, Los Angeles, California

Shaheed Muhammad is 6 foot 6, so he knew he needed a tall horse. He and Shaka, his lanky chestnut thoroughbred, tower over their teammates. He grew up watching the “good guys,” who were typically white, swoop in on horseback in movies, wearing fancy hats and shiny boots. “I’ve always had an affinity for horses,” he said. Back then, however, he was drawn to more popular aspects of Black culture in South Central: hip-hop and basketball. Once he learned that his dad had conducted search-and-rescue missions on horseback, though, Muhammad’s own interest in horseback riding was renewed. He met Shaka on a friend’s ranch, and bonded with the horse on weekly rides. His journey through the “horse game,” as he calls it, had been lonely before he discovered Knight’s ranch.

The gatekeepers that surrounded him in his early days of riding were white he was often misled and misunderstood by arrogant riders.“They felt like they were God’s gift to horses,” he said. “They feel like it’s their culture that they’ve mastered.” As he watched those riders show off their expertise and dominance, the Westerns he’d watched took on a different meaning. In their assertion of ownership, not only of their horses but of the culture itself, he began to see what was wrong with America’s past. “Now that I look back as an adult, these were actually the bad guys,” he said. “You’re conditioned to believe this image of cowboys, but these people are intruding on people’s land and stealing.”

Shaheed and Nijhel share a laugh while riding at Jerrae’s new property in Laveen, Arizona.

Nijhel “Jimmy” Motley showed up for ride with his teammates on a recent October afternoon in Laveen, Arizona.

Shaheed Muhammad gives his horse, Shaka, a run on a recent October afternoon.

Jerrae Walker ties up his horse, Cinnamon.

Jerrae recently purchased a property in Laveen, Arizona, where the team can now gather to ride.

Jerrae Walker’s horse, Cinnamon.

Shaheed Muhammad and Nijhel “Jimmy” Motley are two of the members of the “As the Crows Fly” rodeo team.

“As the Crows Fly” is a team of black rodeo riders from all over the country. They found each other in Phoenix, Arizona.

Shaheed waves to one of Jerrae’s neighbors, as he and Nijhel take their horses back to their stable for the evening.

Daja E. Henry is a writer and photographer based in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a graduate of Howard University and currently covers health disparities in underserved communities across the Southwest. She is bilingual and has told stories from Panama, Guyana, Cuba and the American South. Email High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor .

Note: This story has been updated to correct the name of a horse from Freckles to Little Bits. In addition, we are correcting the name of the Thorough Laddins rodeo group to the Thyrl Latting Rodeo Spectacular and to clarify that Jerrae Walker’s father was part of a rodeo group that traveled the same circuit as the Thyrl Latting Rodeo Spectacular.

Here's the history of the NFL's 'Hail Mary' pass on its 41st anniversary

The "Hail Mary" pass: That last second, long shot attempt for a losing football team to come from behind and win the game. While these miracle throws have generated some of the most exciting plays in NFL history, the term became commonplace after one football game that happened 41 years ago on Wednesday.

On Dec. 28, 1975, the Dallas Cowboys were trailing 14-10 to the Minnesota Vikings during the NFC Divisional Championship. With seconds left on the clock, quarterback Roger Staubach threw a 50-yard pass to wide receiver Drew Pearson, resulting in an improbable touchdown and a come-from-behind win for the Cowboys.

The term "Hail Mary" was used by Staubach when the quarterback spoke with sportswriters following the game. Staubach reminisced to the Dallas Morning News in 2010 about how his pass got its name.

"I was kidding around with the writers," Staubach said. "Then they asked the question. I said, 'I got knocked down on the play. I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.'"

The Cowboys went on to defeat the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship game but would lose 21-17 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl X. Staubach's pass, though, would become one of the defining moments of that season and his NFL career, with the phrase Hail Mary spreading even beyond sports.

"It slowly became the term for anybody that was kind of in trouble, and you had a hope," Staubach said, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "You used to have a wing and a prayer, and now the Hail Mary is used for politics, for business, and for football."

Before Staubach popularized the term to mean an incredible comeback touchdown pass, the term's first usage in football is thought to date back to Oct. 28, 1922, according to ESPN. Notre Dame was trailing 3-0 against Georgia Tech when Fighting Irish guard Noble Kizer said to his teammates in the huddle, "Boys, let's have a Hail Mary," and immediately afterward scored a touchdown in the second quarter. Kizer is said to have repeated the Hail Mary again in the fourth quarter before the team scored yet another touchdown, winning the game.

Notre Dame's comeback win against Ohio State on Nov. 2, 1935, named the best game in the first 100 years of football by the Associated Press in 1969, is considered to be the first case of the Hail Mary pass in modern context. With less than a minute left on the clock, Fighting Irish backup quarterback backup William Shakespeare threw a 19-yard pass that Wayne Millner caught on his knees in the end zone, resulting in a 18-13 win.

More than 40 years after Staubach's miracle throw, Hail Mary passes have only become more popular in the NFL. In 1983, quarterback Steve Bartkowski threw a last second pass to wide receiver Billy Johnson, giving the Atlanta Falcons a 28-24 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in one of the most exciting Hail Mary passes in league history. In 2015, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers connected with tight end Richard Rodgers for a a 61-yard Hail Mary pass and a 27-23 victory over the Detroit Lions on Dec. 3, now known as the "Miracle in Motown."

Staubach says it's been enjoyable to be known for the iconic play.

"The NFL has put out Hail Mary T-shirts," Staubach said. "They have a big 'Hail Mary' on the front and it explains the play on the back. I bought a bunch for my grandkids."

Here Come the Cowboys - HISTORY

Hundreds of years ago, long before tourists or even cities, there was another Florida. When the Spaniard Ponce de León discovered it in 1513, Florida was mostly wide, green spaces. In 1521 when he returned, he brought horses and seven Andalusian cattle, the ancestors of the Texas Longhorns. He knew he'd found pastureland. Spanish explorers turned Florida into America's oldest cattle-raising state.

The early cattle-raising days were rough for Spanish settlers. The St. Augustine missionaries who raised beef also fought Indian raids and mosquitoes. Despite the cattle fever ticks, storms, swamps and snakes, before 1700 there were already dozens of ranches along the Florida Panhandle and the St. Johns River.

By the 1800s, the Seminole nation possessed extensive herds of cattle. Most Florida settlers raised beef for food. As Indian and white settlers moved south, so did the cattle. They moved through Alachua county into the Kissimmee valley and on to Lake Okeechobee. The search for new pastures was the reason for the migration south.

Railroads reached into Florida. Because trains could ship cattle, the beef industry grew. New towns sprang up around the ranches, and more people arrived from other states. There was work for blacksmiths, shopkeepers, and cowboys in these settlements. During the Civil War, Florida became a chief supplier of cattle to the Confederacy, both for meat and leather.

Florida's old-time cowboys had a unique way of herding cattle. They used 10- to 12-foot-long whips made of braided leather. Snapping these whips in the air made a loud "crack." That sound brought stray cattle back into line fast and earned cowboys the nickname of "crackers." Many rode rugged, rather small horses known as "cracker ponies."

Cracker cowboys also counted on herd dogs to move cattle along the trail. Their tough dogs could help get a cow out of a marsh or work a hundred steers into a tidy group. For those rough riders of Florida's first ranges, a good dog, a horse, and whip were all the tools a true cracker needed.

By the 1890s, cow camps were located in most sections of the state. One such camp was located near Lake Kissimmee. It was known as “Cow Town.” The area’s cattle were referred to as scrub cows, ridiculous in appearance. They were once described as “no bigger than donkeys, lacking quality as beef or milk producers.” They were valuable because the animals could survive in wilderness areas. By the 1920s, however, the quality of Florida cattle had improved greatly.

Frederic Remington

Frederic Remington was an American painter, sculptor, and writer. He is famous for his lively scenes of the Old West. This is the beginning of what he wrote in Harper Magazine, August 1895. His illustrations of Florida cowboys accompanied the article.

Cracker Cowboys of Florida
By Frederic Remington

One can thresh the straw of history until he is well worn out, and also is running some risk of wearing others out who may have to listen. So I will waive the telling of who the first cowboy was, even if I knew but the last one who has come under my observation lives down in Florida, and the way it happened was this:

I was sitting in a “sto’ do’” (store door) as the “Crackers” say, waiting for the clerk to load some “number eights” (lumber), when my friend said, “Look at the cowboys!” This immediately caught my interest. With me cowboys are what gems and porcelains are to some others.

ɺloha Rodeo' Book Illuminates The History Of Hawaiian Cowboys 09:45

In 1908, three riders from Hawaii came to compete in the biggest rodeo in America — Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Their abilities stunned spectators unaware of Hawaii's cattle culture.

Book Excerpt: 'Aloha Rodeo'

The new world’s first cowboys were called vaqueros, from the Spanish vaca, for cow, and querer, to love. Vaqueros wore clothes that combined practicality with ornamentation: hats with wide upturned brims, low-heeled boots with jingling metal spurs decorated with silver, and pants adorned with bright buttons up the seams. Their skills at riding, roping, and herding, combined with their distinctive look, gave them prestige among men and women it was said a vaquero would dismount only to dance with a pretty girl.

By the early nineteenth century, it was clear that Hawaii’s bullock hunters couldn’t keep up with the islands’ soaring cattle populations. Through increasing trade with North America, the monarchy had learned that vaqueros managed herds of tens of thousands at sprawling ranchos in Alta California. Here, finally, was a possible solution to Hawaii’s bovine nightmare—and a potential moneymaker. In the early 1830s, Kamehameha III sent a royal decree to mission contacts in California. The king requested that vaqueros come to the islands to teach Hawaiians the basics of roping and herding. That same year, perhaps a dozen men, roughly three for each of the major islands, traveled from California to Hawaii.

The vaqueros brought their own well-trained mustangs, which traveled in first class compared to livestock, with regular brushing, water, and fresh food. Storms aside, the most stressful part of the journey was the end. As one historian noted, “While embarkation in California meant dockside loading, the vaquero was apprehensive about casting his mount overboard in Kawaihae Bay for the swim to shore.” But there was no alternative.

Customized gear was also critical, starting with a leather-covered saddle often stamped with intricate geometric or floral patterns. A vaquero’s most important and treasured possession, though, was his reata, the root of the English word lariat. Braided painstakingly by hand out of four strips of carefully chosen rawhide, the lasso was usually about eighty feet long. A rider’s job, and sometimes his life, depended on his proficiency with the rope. When it rained, the lariat was the first thing the vaquero protected.

Cowboys in Spanish Mexico had put their lassos to uses beyond herding cattle. During the Mexican-American War, local ranchers pressed into fighting employed them as weapons against American troops dragging a man to death didn’t cost any bullets. According to one story from the Mexican Revolution, a soldier once roped the muzzle of a small cannon and dragged it off. Lassos also came in handy during bear hunts in California. A colorful 1855 account in Harper’s Magazine described how Mexicans, who could “throw the lasso with the precision of the rifle ball,” would corner bears and rope them around the neck and hind foot. “[A]fter tormenting the poor brute and . . . defying death in a hundred ways, the lasso is wound around a tree, the bear brought close to the trunk and either killed or kept until somewhat reconciled to imprisonment.”

In 1840, a young Yale graduate named Francis Allyn Olmsted was traveling the South Pacific and, upon arriving in Waimea, noticed men dressed in ponchos, boots with “prodigiously long spurs,” and pants split along the outside seam below the knee. Olmsted watched as the men corralled cattle and branded each one prior to shipment to Honolulu: “In an instant, the lasso was firmly entangled around his horns or legs, and he was thrown down and pinioned. The burning brand was then applied, and after sundry bellowings and other indications of disapprobation, the poor animal was released.”

The vaqueros taught the bullock hunters that the lasso was a more effective tool than the rifle. Ranching meant careful management: organizing, moving, slaughtering, breeding. It was about fences and grass, brands and paddocks. This was how to bring the wild herds of Mauna Kea under control.

The men from California also taught the Hawaiians how to work with the horses that had first arrived in the islands in 1803, when an American merchant ship had brought four mounts from California as gifts for Kamehameha I. This time the king’s reaction was more subdued. Even if riding was faster than walking, he asked shrewdly, would the animals be worth the food, water, and care they would require?

But in the end he accepted the gifts, and within a matter of decades, horses had become an integral part of daily life and tradition throughout the islands. Hawaiians quickly took to riding, and there is mention of importing more horses to the archipelago as early as the mid-1820s. Hawaii’s first horses were mustangs from the wilds of New Spain, descendants of the tough animals the conquistadors had brought to the New World in the sixteenth century. They were Arabians, probably the oldest horse breed in the world. These compact, hardy survivors could thrive in harsh landscapes—their long-distance endurance is legendary—and they had experience working with cattle that made them perfect for their new job in the islands.

Hawaiians also adopted the vaqueros’ spirit of competition. During annual roundups, or rodeos, ranches in New Spain hosted matches in which vaqueros faced off in friendly contests. These games were sometimes brutal, such as grizzly roping, or races in which riders tried to grab a live rooster buried up to its neck in the ground. Others were controlled versions of tasks the vaqueros performed every day: sprinting on horseback, lassoing and tying up steers, and breaking wild horses to the saddle.

As Hawaiians became more adept with the vaqueros’ methods and tools, they absorbed many of their mentors’ sensibilities about work, animal husbandry, and even style. Some of the men Olmsted observed, in fact, were likely native Hawaiians dressed in what was fast becoming standard garb for island cowboys.

Yet they also created a uniquely Hawaiian tool kit. They slimmed down the heavy, bulky Mexican saddle into the Hawaiian tree saddle, so called because it was carved from the wood of local trees, just as their ancestors had carved canoes out of koa. Local saddlemakers added a high saddle horn for dallying, or tying, the free end of a lasso. Hawaiian riders used smaller spurs than the long Mexican ones, so as not to trip on jagged lava rock.

Hawaiians took to cattle ranching with such enthusiasm and skill that soon the vaqueros had nearly put themselves and the bullock hunters out of a job. “Already the old race of Bullock catchers (a most useless set in other respects) is becoming extinct,” wrote a local rancher in 1848. Eleven years later, the Honolulu papers reported that the vaqueros who had come to teach the Hawaiians “how to lasso, jerk beef and cure hides” were all but gone, either back to North America—perhaps to California to chase gold rush fortunes—or else absorbed into Hawaiian society.

In their place were Hawaiian cowboys called paniolo, a local twist on the word español. The legendary cattle drives of the West were still a generation away, but here on the plains of Waimea and elsewhere in the islands, paniolo were working cattle—before there was ever such a thing as an American cowboy.

From the book ALOHA RODEO: Three Hawaiian Cowboys, the World's Greatest Rodeo, and a Hidden History of the American West by David Wolman and Julian Smith. Copyright © 2019 by David Wolman and Julian Smith. From William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

Emiko Tamagawa produced this interview and edited it for broadcast with Tinku Ray. Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.

Who Were The Cowboys Behind 'Cowboy Songs'?

An integrated cowboy crew at mealtime on the Merkeson Ranch in Texas in the 1890s.

Courtesy of the Gillette Brothers

A hundred years ago, a collection of folk music forever re-tuned the American songbook. Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads by John A. Lomax introduced the country to the music of the American West, and helped propel the cowboy to iconic status. But a close examination of early cowboy music reveals details about some of the very first cowboys that don't fit the usual stereotypes.

In the 1940s, a radio show made for the Library of Congress recorded Lomax talking about his earliest memories of cowboys. The pioneer folklorist had seen firsthand the great trail drives after the Civil War.

Charley Willis and his wife, Laura, in the late 1800s. Willis is credited with the original version of the classic cowboy song "Goodbye Old Paint." Courtesy of Franklin Willis hide caption

Charley Willis and his wife, Laura, in the late 1800s. Willis is credited with the original version of the classic cowboy song "Goodbye Old Paint."

Courtesy of Franklin Willis

"I couldn't have been more than 4 years old when I first heard a cowboy yodel and sing to his cattle. I was sleeping in my father's cabin in Texas," Lomax said. "As the cowboys drove the cattle along, they sang, called and yodeled to them. . They made up songs about trail life."

But just who were these cowboys that Lomax saw? Where did they come from? These questions intrigue Mike Searles, a professor of history at Augusta State University in Georgia.

"There's a popular notion that when you're talking about the cowboy, you're exclusively talking about white cowboys, which of course is not true," Searles says. "Black men were involved in being cowboys very early in the history of our country."

No one is sure how many African-Americans worked as cowboys in the trail drives, but estimates run as high as 1 in 4.

"In southeast Texas, you had a large number of blacks who were slaves and had been doing cow work. When freedom comes, it would be just as natural for them to begin to do that work," Searles says, adding that there was demand for cowboys. "They gained a degree of respect and independence."

The trail drives were a unique moment in history that brought together a diverse lot of men, including freed slaves and confederate war veterans. And, while some cowboy crews were segregated, photographs of others show black and white men working side by side in what Searles calls "range equality."

"In that environment, you want to have pretty good relations," he says. "Because that person could elect to help you or not help you in a dangerous situation."

By the early 1900s, America was changing. People were moving to cities, and John Lomax decided he was in a race against time to preserve the voices of these early cowboys. Back then, it was radical to think that the creative contributions of common working people had value. Regardless, he starting sending out queries to newspapers, wrote hundreds of letters and lectured far and wide, asking people to contribute in his quest to collect cowboy songs. He occasionally visited cowboy haunts.

"In 1909, I went to the Cattlemen's Convention in Fort Worth, Texas," Lomax said in the 1940s. "One night, I found myself in the backroom of the White Elephant Saloon. I carried with me a small Edison recording machine that used wax cylinders. Instead of a microphone, I used a big horn, which the cowboys usually refused to sing into."

Don Edwards, a respected traditional cowboy singer, got his start at the same White Elephant in Fort Worth.

'Cotton Eye Joe'

Edwards sings "Cotton Eye Joe," originally an African-American song from before the Civil War. Decades later, it became popular among cowboy swing musicians. Video shot by Hal Cannon in a house overlooking the Bosque River outside of Meridian, Texas, not far from the childhood home of folklorist John A. Lomax.

"You know, he had a lot of moxie to come in," Edwards says. "Bunch of cowboys and, you know, 'Sing!' Couldn't you just imagine that? They're all sittin' here drinkin' and talkin', and when he'd come in, plop that thing on the table, they'd scatter."

Edwards plays many of the songs first popularized by Lomax in his cowboy song collection. The first edition of Lomax's book contained 112 songs and a forward by Theodore Roosevelt. In his notes, Lomax credits the spirit of the ancient Anglo-Saxon ballad for informing the cowboy song. But when Edwards hears some of these songs, he says it's not ballads he's hearing.

"You take a song like, 'I'm a poor lonesome cowboy, I'm a poor lonesome cowboy, I'm a poor lonesome cowboy, I'm a long long way from my home.' Is that a blues form? It's the earliest blues form there is -- three lines and a tag line," Edwards says.

Edwards traces this blues connection to a place where cultures mixed.

"If you go down to deep south Texas where this music was really born, on that coastal bend down there, you had white cowboys, black cowboys and Mexican vaqueros -- who were very musical people," Edwards says. "And so the white guys learned a lot of that stuff, and that's why a lot of that stuff sounded like the blues."

'Streets of Laredo'

Don Edwards sings the cowboy classic "Streets of Laredo," which traces its roots to a centuries-old British ballad. Video shot by Hal Cannon in a house overlooking the Bosque River outside of Meridian, Texas, not far from the childhood home of folklorist John A. Lomax.

Roger Renwick, a ballad scholar from the University of Texas who has written extensively on the connection between old-world and new-world ballads, agrees.

"Especially in the case of songs which are more elliptical," Renwick says. "They don't tell a story as the European ballads tend to do. They don't tend to be as detailed -- who, what, where, when."

Renwick says that while many cowboy songs are derived from British folk songs, some take a different direction.

"Indeed, some scholars have called this a distinct African-American genre of the blues ballad, because it synthesizes the more emotional blues approach," Renwick says. "And we suddenly see some influence like that on some of the cowboy songs."

Lomax did credit some songs as coming from African-American cowboys -- notably the famous "Goodbye Old Paint" -- although he never recorded a black man playing it.

'Tom Sherman's Barroom'

Edwards sings a bluesy variant of "Streets of Laredo" called "Tom Sherman's Barroom." Video shot by Hal Cannon in a house overlooking the Bosque River outside of Meridian, Texas, not far from the childhood home of folklorist John A. Lomax.

"When you first listen to the song," Lomax says, "the lyrics -- you think it doesn't make any sense. And then, before you know it, you're seeing this wonderful movie in your mind of visions, and you can feel it."

Franklin Willis is the great grandson of Charley Willis, a former slave who rode the Wyoming trail during the 1870s.

"He had a knack for singing. He had a gift, if you will," Franklin says. "His voice was real soothing to the cattle, and this is why they wanted him to participate in these big cattle drives, because he would sing to them and just make them relax.

Willis heard these stories passed down by his family. But there are no recordings of his great-grandfather, or even of his father, who was also a singing cowboy. Lomax's old recordings pay homage to the larger experience of those early cowboys working out in the heat and cold for a dollar a day. Out of that hard reality was born the iconic cowboy. That's why, for Augusta State University's Mike Searles, the face and music of the West need to be represented accurately.

"Many people see the West as the birthplace of America," he says. "If they only see it as the birthplace of white America, it means basically that all other people are interlopers -- they're not part of the core of what makes an American. But if they understand that African-Americans were cowboys, even Native Americans were cowboys, Mexicans were cowboys, that it really opens the door for us to think about America as a multiethnic, multiracial place. Not just in the last decade or century, but from the very beginning."

The Real Faces of Concrete Cowboy

The history of the stables exists largely in the oral storytelling of Black riders who continue to support them today. And these stories, in turn, informed Neri when he was doing research for Ghetto Cowboy in Philadelphia. &ldquoEverything that happens in that book happened in another way in real life,&rdquo says Neri, who is an executive producer for Concrete Cowboy. He calls Cole &ldquoa pastiche of many different kids&rdquo and the adults &ldquorepresentative of the people that I see there.&rdquo

Concrete Cowboy was primarily filmed in the North Philadelphia area, including in and around makeshift stables near Fletcher Street. The film also features several of the real cowboy denizens working the stables, with roles that reflect their own lives, while some riders helped shape the screenplay and served as advisors on set.

“They say they’ve been there for 100 years. I wanted to capture the spirit&mdashI wanted to make sure that they felt like their story was accurate,&rdquo says Ricky Staub, the director and co-writer (with Dan Walser) of Concrete Cowboy.

Fletcher Street rider Jamil &ldquoMil&rdquo Prattis plays a paraplegic cowboy named Paris, who helps Cole learn the ropes at the stables. In a particularly powerful scene, Paris shares an extremely personal story with Cole that is based on Prattis&rsquo real life.

“The stories that he tells as Paris losing his brother is the story of what happened to him and his brother,&rdquo Staub tells TIME. &ldquoI would tell him, &lsquoJust be present in the moment and say what comes to your heart when you’re retelling the story of your brother.&rsquo It was really beautiful to watch.&rdquo

Ivannah Mercedes, who plays a cowgirl named Esha, Cole&rsquos love interest, is another Philadelphia native who &ldquostarted riding as soon as she was able to sit up.&rdquo As one of few Black cowgirls in the urban horse-riding community, Mercedes says her role in Concrete Cowboy is her own life story brought to life on the big screen.

“Esha herself is my story,&rdquo Mercedes tells TIME. “This was the only movie I’ve ever seen that focuses on Black cowgirls and cowboys. It means the world to me to be able to have my debut as an actress and also be telling a story that is so close to my heart.&rdquo

Texas Longhorn for the Taking

In 1821 Anglo settlers arrived in Texas and became the first English-speaking Mexican citizens in the territory. Led by Stephen F. Austin, they arrived in San Felipe de Austin, Texas, to take advantage of the vast expanse of cattle, free for the taking.

"There were millions of longhorn cattle in the brush country of Texas that were loose, strayed, and had multiplied," says Nelson. All the new settlers had to do was round up the cattle.

It was something the vaqueros had been doing for 223 years, since 1598, when Don Juan de Oñate, one of the four richest men in New Spain (present-day Mexico) sent an expedition across the Rio Grande River into New Mexico.

Oñate spent over a million dollars funding the expedition, and brought some 7,000 animals to the present-day United States. It eventually paid off the first gold to come from the West was not from the Gold Rush, but rather from its wool-bearing sheep and then its long-horned livestock.

Russian destroyer sails into the line of fire during shooting drills

Posted On April 29, 2020 15:52:38

During a US and Ukrainian-led multinational maritime exercise, a Russian destroyer created a “dangerous situation” by sailing into an area restricted for live-fire drills, the Ukrainian Navy said in an statement.

On July 10, 2019, the Russian Kashin-class guided-missile destroyer Smetlivy purposefully sailed into an area reserved for naval gunfire exercises, part of the latest iteration of Exercise Sea Breeze, the Ukrainian Navy said in a Facebook post.

“The Russian Federation once again showed its true face and provoked an emergency situation in the Black Sea, ignoring international maritime law,” the post explains, according to a translation by Ukrainian media.

The Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy attempted to communicate with the Russian ship, but the latter is said to have feigned communication problems.

The Russian military, which has been conducting drills in the same area, says that the Ukrainian Navy is lying.

“The Ukrainian Navy’s claim that the Black Sea Fleet’s Smetlivy patrol vessel has allegedly entered a closed zone where Sea Breeze-2019 drills are held is not true,” Russia’s Black Sea Fleet said in a statement carried by Russian media. “Smetlivy acts in strict compliance with the international law.”

Russian Kashin-class guided-missile destroyer Smetlivy.

A US Navy spokesman told Defense One that the Russian ship was present but declined to offer any specific details on the incident. “The presence of the Russian ship had no impact to the exercise yesterday and all evolutions were conducted as scheduled,” Lt. Bobby Dixon, a spokesman for the US Navy’s 6th Fleet, told the outlet.

He added, without elaborating, that “it can be ill-advised to enter an area given the safety hazard identified in a Notice to Mariners.”

The 19th iteration of Exercise Sea Breeze began on July 1, 2019, and will conclude July 19, 2019. The drills involved around 3,000 troops, as well as 32 ships and 24 aircraft, from 19 different countries and focused on a variety of training areas, including maritime interdiction operations, air defense, amphibious warfare, and more.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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