They also had to get the meat and fat ready to be used for foods. Their job was very hard. They were very important to the missionary priests and families living on the Spanish frontier. So, just who were these men that history calls cowboys? How did they become so famous? Why did cowboys become famous? Legends of the Wild West say that cowboys were a symbol of manhood and of freedom. They were viewed as the Wild West’s white knights, winning over all evil. Men came from all around the world to become an American cowboy. The cowboys became idols in their time and are legends today. Legends made cowboys out to be some sort of American royalty. The truth was that most cowboys were nothing more than hired ranch hands. Most cowboys never owned a horse. They rode the horses owned by the ranch for which they worked. Most cowboys didn’t own a six-shooter, because they couldn’t afford even to buy bullets. One in every three cowboys was a black ex-slave. These men started a new job and made a new home in the American West after being freed by the Civil War. The job of the cowboy was very hard. Hollywood movies did not tell the true story about bitter cold nights or burning summer days. Untold were the stories about spending days alone in the brush and the acid smell of burning cow hide. Cowboys’ hands and arms were usually scarred from thorns and hot branding irons. Many had lost their right index finger as a result of having “dallied” a steer; roping the steer and then wrapping the rope around the saddle horn. Their pay, at best, was $1 each day. Yet, no matter what these men were really like, their stories grew and grew. Americans living in New York, Boston, Chicago, and other American cities of the 1880s could not receive enough information. Eastern newspapers and dime novels carried daily stories about the cowboys of the Wild West. A group of real Arizona cowboys pose for their picture to be taken in the mid-1880s. 86  Chapter 8 • Territorial Growth