It's the lure of the Wild West, of course; and America's long-time love affair with the cowboy. Few legends are as endearing as the American cowboy. They are a special breed ---they tamed the West, rescued damsels in distress, and were even tough enough to rope tornadoes!

The American cowboy actually has his roots in the early vaqueros of Mexico. But the legendary cowboy we picture is that of the 19th century, post- Civil War American West. It was during that time that tall tales and legends wer shared around the campfire, and the cowboy became truly popular. Those stories from the Wild West often paint pictures of some heroic cowboy on a white horse galloping in to defend the defenseless and save the day. Cowboys were truly the West's "knights in dusty armor." But what is a hero without a villain? Not all cowboys were law-abiding citizens. The West produced some of the roughest,meanest outlaws that ever lived!

The life of the cowboy was often romanticized, but in reality it was hard. Ranch work was full of long, hot days with little pay. Life on the cattle trail was worse. Herding cattle hundred of miles with only fleas to keep them company hardly seem like the dude ranch vacations we may dream of today. The modern cowboy has held onto the ideals of the old days but has found a few new outlets as well. Some will argue that the cowboy lifestyle is dying out - but they must be livin' in New York City! They cowboy culture still thrives in the Southwest. Men still do ride horses, wear cowboy hats, and put on their boots every mornin'.

For the next few months, the Pearce Museum will be exploring different manifestations of the life and legends of the cowboy. Through our permanent collection, we will celebrate how he lived, the realities and the tall tales we've all come to know and love, and the evolutions of the modern-day cowboy through a series of small exhibitions.

Join us as we celebrate the Legend of the American Cowboy.