“Sir, why do you call him a cowboy?”
The answer is perfectly clear:
That man works on horseback with cattle
Like heifer or bull calf or steer.
You might call him cowhand or cowman
Or cowherd, if you feel you must.
When time comes for branding or cutting,
You'll find him afoot in the dust.
There's cattleman, rancher and stockman,
And sometimes just rider will do.
When talking 'bout breaking a bronco,
Bronc buster or plain buckaroo.
A ranch hand can learn from a top hand.
All top hands say “Yes” to top screw.
When working with horses, they're wranglers.
A waddy might help them out, too.
The old-timers called rustlers waddies,
Then cowhands who worked a short spell.
It might just be where folks are brought up.
I swear sometimes I just can't tell.
When gathering pairs in the Autumn
Or driving to pasture in snow,
There's sev'ral more names for a cowboy.
I'm sure that you're dying to know.
Range riders will help bring in cattle.
The drovers will drive them along.
They all do their work in the daytime.
Nightriders you know from the song.
A nighthawk stands guard over horses.
Night nurses ride rings 'round the herd.
They keep all the misfits from straying
And settle them when they get stirred.
They used to send beeves off to market
By loading them up on a train.
A shipper sent one hand to tend them.
The reason will soon be quite plain.
The hand would walk outside the rail car
And check for the beeves that were down.
He carried a stick and he punched them.
They stood for the ride into town.
These hands became known as cowpunchers
Or cowpokes. I think you see why.
So what started out with just one word,
Became twenty-two, bye and bye.
You might help a man with his cattle
And if the trail's rocky and hard,
You'll know you've done well if he thanks you
And shakes your hand, then calls you “Pard.”