♪ David Rubenstein, voice-over: Around the world, few images are as iconic and evocative as a cowboy on the range.
For decades, the cowboy epitomized what it meant to be American.
♪ I grew up watching Westerns and wanted to be a cowboy like many kids of my generation.
From comic books to cereal boxes and cigarettes, the cowboy symbolized self-reliance, character, strength, and White American masculinity.
Woman: From the time that there were dime novelists, riding around Yellowstone with the outlaws and sending those novels back to New York, it was fueled by that romance.
Man: The mythology of the cowboy really frustrates me as a historian because most of the real cowboys-- we don't even know their names.
They're buried in unmarked graves, and those are the ones who did the work.
In fact, the very first cowboys were Black men.
[Dog barks; cow moos] Rubenstein, voice-over: My journey is to examine the lives and stories of real cowboys and how, in today's changing world, the cowboy icon has expanded with the times.
[Horse nickers] Man: You often see people who come from marginalized backgrounds... taking existing cultural representations and changing them to feel like they're a part of American culture.
Rubenstein, voice-over: What can the story of a cowboy, past and present, tell us about the cultural impact of this epic American icon and, equally important, about ourselves?
♪ ♪ [Trigger nickers] Roy Rogers: Well, riders, Trigger here is rarin' to go, so, let's get started with today's story.
Rubenstein, voice-over: Growing up in the 1950s, my heroes were baseball players, astronauts, and, most of all, cowboys.
[Theme music playing] Watching Roy Rogers battle outlaws and fight for justice instilled in me essential American values like independence and self-reliance.
And Roy was just one of many.
The Lone Ranger: Hi-yo, Silver!
Man: The cowboy figure is our first native-born hero that didn't exist anywhere else who gave this very, very powerful narrative of the individual people that'll create this brand-new civilization.
Here was a man of action, and he's on a horse.
He can fire his gun.
[Rapid-fire rifle shots] He has great courage, who is his own boss, who is out in the wilds, out in the woods, in the pure clean air as opposed to in some smog-choked slum somewhere.
So, this is a way to find freedom, and this was something that really appealed to people.
♪ But with the cowboy figure, there's always been this tension between myth and reality.
Rubenstein, voice-over: So, who were the real cowboys and what role did they actually play in America's Westward expansion?
Man: They really did do the work nobody else was willing to do because it was so damn hard, and still is.
Ellsworth: The drudgery of cowboy life is not shown but this mythic version of the West.
That's something that's gotten into our soul as Americans.
It's stories that we like and they've meant a lot to us for a long time.
[Dog barking] Rubenstein, voice-over: So, if cowboys are a part of the soul of Americans, it's important to separate fact from fiction.
We're all familiar with the mythic icon from popular culture.
[Neighing] But if you're looking for real cowboys, the place to start is one of America's most colorful and exciting pastimes--the rodeo.
[Cheering] [Man talking over P.A.
indistinctly] And that brought me to Cody, Wyoming, known as the Rodeo Capital of America.
[Laughter] Look at him go!
[Indistinct] ♪ Rubenstein, voice-over: As the audience and the rodeo riders got ready for the big event, I met with Lori O'Harver, a historian and reporter who has covered the world of rodeo for decades.
I'm Lori O'Harver, David.
It's so nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you.
And welcome to my world.
Well, thanks very much.
Is it very important to this culture here that there are rodeos?
This town was built on rodeo.
There's a lot of tradition that's built here, the culture that's based on ranching.
Rubenstein: Today, by having rodeos, does that perpetuate the idea that cowboys are still very vibrant parts of our society?
Rodeo plays that part.
People come to the rodeos because they want the exposure, they want to immerse themselves in this cowboy culture, that whole romance thing.
I'm gonna be seeing a rodeo tonight.
Um, what is the most important things for me to watch?
I want you to see the passion in the horses.
I want you to see these guys up here on the platform getting ready.
Their--their emotional control is absolutely off the charts.
I want you to watch the camaraderie between them.
There's a cool thing that happens on the bucking chutes between cowboys.
When it's really going well and it's just what they wanna see, they sing.
They'll yip and they'll hoot like little coyotes.
Rubenstein, voice-over: Lori took me to the corrals to meet some of the rodeo folks.
Nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you, sir.
So, your role is what?
You own some of the animals?
Well, um, I run the Frontier Rodeo Company.
You run it?
How many, um, livestock would you have at a rodeo like this?
So, here, we have about 80 head of bucking horses, 60 bulls.
We got 100 head of roping calves.
Am I supposed to root for your animals, or am I supposed to root for the cowboys?
Um, I root for both of them.
Oh, you do?
OK. All right.
I like to see 'em-- O'Harver: You'll see 'em-- you'll see him on the back of the bucking chutes-- Rubenstein: All right.
when his horses leave.
He'll be bucking in time with those horses, encouraging them on.
Rubenstein: You think the cowboy tradition is getting bigger in the West or receding?
Stewart: I think it's getting bigger.
I think it's growing every day.
Rubenstein: Well, if you fall off a horse and you get a scratch, is it considered bad for a cowboy to get a Band-Aid or that's bad?
They rub a little dirt on it.
They just put dirt on it?
Is that good for it or... You bet.
I didn't know that.
Um, from watching rodeos on television, um, the most dangerous event, to me, seems to be riding these broncos.
You ride them for 5 seconds or 10 seconds, and then you jump off or you get thrown off.
Is that the most dangerous?
Probably the most dangerous is the bull riding.
For instance, the gentleman who's fighting bulls here tonight was hurt so badly, he was out for 6 months and they told him he may not ever walk again.
Nobody--come on, Bryan Steedley.
Second man: Here we go!
First man: Come on, Bryan!
Second man: Here we go!
First man: We got one down, baby!
Second man: Oh!
First man: Get rolling!
Get roll--keep crawling!
I know he can't breathe.
He can't get a breath of... Man: Went to surgery the next day, and then a month later, the surgery wasn't taking very good, so, I had to go redo a full neck surgery and... O'Harver: So, Dusty, how much hardware?
Uh, a rod and 5 screws.
Rubenstein: So, that didn't discourage you from doing this again?
Dusty: No, sir.
It's-- I'm a man of faith.
And, uh, you know, life is up--about ups and downs.
And, you know, it's--I think it really just defines who you are and your character.
And, ultimately, for me, I just think it's part of my story that hopefully I can inspire and share with others and help prepare them.
And what is the image of an American cowboy to you?
Hardworking people that wake up every day and put their best foot forward and be able to overcome life's challenges.
I'm gonna cheer you on tonight.
Thanks a lot.
I appreciate it.
O'Harver: Hey, young un'.
What are you doing?
Are you a calf roper?
I'm the rodeo clown's son.
We're fixin' to go try to see your daddy.
Where's he at?
He's in the trailer right over there.
You wanna take us over, walk with us, be on film?
Yes, ma'am, I guess.
'K, 'K, You escort us.
Rubenstein, voice-over: I was learning that rodeo is more than just a series of events.
It's a whole way of life that dates back many generations.
Man: Howdy, howdy!
O'Harver: John Harrison, how are you?
How are you?
I'm so good.
It's so nice to see you.
Yes, you, too.
Both: David Rubenstein.
Nice to meet you, sir.
So, you're a rodeo clown?
Harrison: Yes, sir.
Did you grow up in a rodeo or cowboy world?
My grandfather was a world champion bull rider, and I tried riding calves when I was about 12 years old and got knocked down, breath knocked out of me.
And I was like, "Why in the world would anybody wanna do this?"
And so, I knew that the entertainment side of it's what I wanted to be in.
Been doing it ever since.
And how many do you do a year?
About 46 rodeos a year.
So, we're on the road a lot.
Announcer: John Harrison!
Rubenstein, voice-over: What John didn't mention is that it's not all clowning around.
He plays a crucial part in protecting riders if they go down.
In fact, he was there when Dusty Tuckness was injured.
Man: That could be pretty serious down that... Rubenstein: Do you recommend this as a career to young people?
Harrison: You know, it just depends.
It's gotta be a right fit for you.
You gotta have that personality.
And relationship-wise, you gotta have a-- a woman that will support you on the road and be able to, uh, I guess, you know, truly trust you, you know, on-- on a relationship side, 'cause a lot of people, they don't like to be gone overnight, you know, and I'll be gone for 3 months at a time.
Rubenstein, voice-over: As the opening ceremony was about to begin, we ran into real-life rancher Chase Williams, who has cowboy in his DNA.
Family grew up rodeoing.
My dad rodeoed his whole life.
And my Uncle Don started ridin' broncs when he was 12.
So, my dad was a cowboy.
My uncles were cowboys.
Are you a cowboy yourself?
I would-- I would say that.
And people come up to you and say, "Are you a cowboy?"
And I tell them "Yeah."
Rubenstein: OK. And I feel like we should be proud of who we are.
And what's the most pleasure you think you get out of watching rodeos?
I really like to see the horses.
Some friends of mine, they-- they raise bucking horses and kind of understanding the breeding and watching them go out there and perform.
He actually is a product of how we're breeding things and how breeding has progressed, just like they do with racehorses.
He bucks today in the rodeo, so, you'll get to see him in saddle bronc riding.
He's a stud, so, we've always had him in a pen.
You don't keep studs with the other horses, unless they're with mares when you're breeding.
And so, since he's been around the house, he's-- he's pretty gentle and pretty spoiled.
The animal rights movement really wants to believe that-- that this is some form of torture, and it isn't.
It isn't at all.
If--I'm--I'm the biggest, softest animal person in the world.
If there was anything going on here that is untoward, I'd be marching and carrying signs against it.
You mean the animals actually don't mind this?
The horses live for it.
They've been bred for it.
You can watch them.
They step in like warriors.
Vold: These are all athletes.
I mean, these are animals that are raised for this purpose.
Williams: They're performers and athletes themselves.
To see the culmination of these super athletic cowboys and cowgirls get on these broncs, it's amazing to me.
♪ Rubenstein, voice-over: The rodeo opened with a colorful display of women riders in formation.
♪ O'Harver: It's pretty easy to get 'em tangled up if your timing is off.
Rubenstein: What do they get paid to do that?
Rubenstein, voice-over: Then came a series of pretty bruising events.
Announcer: Number 1 is gonna push it to the limit.
Look at that.
Gonna be no time, but helps him off.
Second announcer: Bill Tuner.
Tuner comes [indistinct].
[Beep] Oh, folks, the cowboy's gonna be the first one to tell you, get a little more control over this horse.
[Announcer speaking indistinctly] [Music playing] [Cheering] Yeah!
Ladies and gentlemen, riding [indistinct]... [Beep] Oh, Billy!
[Beep] [Cheering] ♪ ♪ [Cheering] [Announcer speaking indistinctly] Oh, my God, that was good.
Folks, it just keeps getting better!
[Cheering] Rubenstein, voice-over: After having a front row seat watching rodeo cowboys, I wanted to learn how the original cowboy ranchers transformed their job into this hair-raising competition.
Vold: You know, back whenever the rodeos were kind of established, it was just cowboys showing off and kind of competing against each other with the skills that they did in everyday ranch life.
I think that's how rodeo probably started.
Rubenstein, voice-over: Derrick Begay is a rancher and a champion rodeo rider from the Navajo Nation.
Begay: 100+ years ago, I think a bunch of guys got together and didn't have nothing but time and animals, like, "Hey, let's do something with these things."
And cowboys, if you tell them, "Oh, you can't do that," most of them are like, "What?
What do you mean I can't do that?"
and... "Here, hold my hat or my beer or whatever and let me show you."
That--I think that's how most of it got started.
Guys would get on 'em and they'd buck, and eventually it became like, "Hey, I got one you couldn't ride."
They say there was a horse that couldn't be rode and there was a cowboy that couldn't be thrown.
Begay: When I was a kid growing up, I thought it was cool.
To have the cowboy image is cool.
People respect it.
Those guys are hardworking.
They have to live off the land.
They have a lot of responsibilities, and cowboys are respected on the Navajo reservation.
O'Harver: 30 years ago when I started in this industry, there was this native cowboy that was amazing.
And I told him, "I'm your biggest fan."
And he looked at me and he kind of rocked back on his heels and gave it some serious thought and he said, "Let me tell you about myself.
"I have to go twice as hard, be twice as good, and--and "be twice as fast getting to rodeos than the rest of the guys "because the judges don't want to look at me because of my red skin, my heritage."
And I thought, "What is that even?"
Today, it's not.
You know, I mean, it's-- it's moving forward.
Announcer: This is Derrick Begay and Colter Todd.
Begay: Whether it's out on the ranch, in my rodeo career, I like to promote the Western lifestyle, and I think it's something that's always been there and is always gonna be.
Announcer: Derrick Begay and Colter Todd.
Begay: See, uh, everybody gets 2 rounds.
So, today was our first round.
This afternoon will be our second round.
And our only chance to win any kind of money is to place in the second round.
Woman: And how much would that get you?
Probably--I'm gonna guess probably $400.
Does that cover the gas?
Not even close.
Begay: It's hard to make a living for, not just yourself but for your family in rodeo or ranching, but I'm proud of what I do.
One main thing about this lifestyle we have, it makes you believe in something.
Whether it's--I call it God.
People call it however-- whatever they wanna call it.
If there's somebody that don't believe in any kind of spirit, whoever they pray to, I say try raising some cows or raising some horses or raising some animals.
All you can do sometimes is but pray, whether it's for a life of a calf or some rain or if it's within your own family.
I'm not a real religious person.
I've never been to a church.
I think I went to a wedding one time in a church.
But I'm a true believer when it comes to whatever you call that.
So, that's one thing.
It'll make you pray about some things.
Rubenstein, voice-over: After learning a bit about the life of real cowboys, I wanted to know how the romantic notion of my childhood heroes got started.
The answer began at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, a monument to the man who almost singlehandedly invented the mythic icon of the American cowboy.
Rubenstein: Tell me exactly who Buffalo Bill Cody was.
So, Buffalo Bill Cody was a typical Western settler.
He came out west with his family.
He was a scout for the U.S. military, and that's where he established his fame.
It was right after the Battle of Summit Springs in the 1860s, where a group of Cheyenne that kidnapped a couple of White settler women, and Buffalo Bill managed to save one of them.
And after that, a dime novelist came out and said, "I wanna interview you about this battle," and soon produced the first Buffalo Bill novel.
The dime novel did more than anything to make Buffalo Bill an international celebrity.
Rubenstein, voice-over: The Western dime novels were so popular that theater companies adapted them for the stage.
Johnston: He went back east as a dime novel hero.
And he was actually at a performance and someone on the stage was pretending to be Buffalo Bill, and word started to spread amongst the audience that the real Buffalo Bill is in the house.
And the lights were turned on him and he was asked to stand up, and it just brought the house down.
So, in 1883, Cody decided they would take the show into the arena.
[Upbeat march music playing] Buffalo Bill presented real Lakota Indians that people had read about in the dime novels who would attack the stagecoach.
And then Buffalo Bill started recruiting more and more cowboys.
He presented dramatic reenactments like the Battle of Summit Springs.
And, of course, the cowboys saved the day.
♪ Not only was Buffalo Bill conveying this idea to Americans, but Buffalo Bill also took the show overseas and was an international hit.
He appeared before Queen Victoria.
Appeared in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
So, a lot of Europeans were exposed to the cowboy as the ideal American.
Rubenstein: So, why would somebody named Bill Cody call himself Buffalo Bill Cody rather than Cowboy Bill Cody?
He wasn't really a cowboy.
What is a cowboy?
A cowboy is basically a common worker, no different than a coal miner or a lumberjack.
But with this difference, they were given a lot of trust.
I mean, they were really independent workers.
They did not have a foreman breathing down their neck.
A lot of people thought that cowboys were just these ruffians that came into town and shot the place up.
I don't think they really realized the important role cowboys were playing and feeding the growing United States.
So, we're going into the Buffalo Bill vault where we keep our Buffalo Bill collections.
So, this is about as close as you'll ever come to rummaging through Buffalo Bill's closet.
This was worn by Buffalo Bill Cody while he was performing in the Wild West.
This was actually worn by him?
And all of the beadwork was completed by the Lakota women who were traveling along with the Wild West.
You can see it's really quite cross-cultural because you have the beadwork as well as the European style.
But the fringes, the beadwork, all reflective of the Plains Indian culture.
But you can imagine when he rides into the arena, all the sunlight would have been reflecting off of the buttons, the beadwork.
The other thing, too, about Buffalo Bill was he was quite interested in re-creating some of the more contemporary events.
So, here you'll see on the back of the jacket, the American flag and the Cuban flag.
He was quite a supporter of the--the Cuban revolutionaries and the independence movement there.
In fact, he brought in some Cubans to travel with the Wild West in the 1890s.
Well, where--where did you get this?
This came from the family.
And this is one of the few objects that we will allow visitors to handle.
So, this is actually a hat that belonged to Buffalo Bill Cody.
You could put this on and say you've actually worn Buffalo Bill's hat.
All right, here I am with Buffalo Bill's hat.
I--I hope he's not turning over in his grave as I...
I think you're ready for the rodeo acts.
I should have been a cowboy.
I always had it in my mind to be a cowboy.
Rubenstein, voice-over: So, now I needed to get myself a proper cowboy hat.
[Door bell dings] And there's no better place to go than the legendary Shorty's Hattery in Oklahoma City.
Woman: How are you?
Nice to meet you.
Now, why is a cowboy hat better for me than a baseball hat?
I mean, wouldn't it do the same thing?
First of all, it changes your image.
It makes you look much better.
Well, I need that.
And it gives you more coverage from the--from the sun.
OK. How many for like $10?
You don't have-- No.
cowboy hats for $10?
It costs that much to measure your head.
I sit down to measure my head.
Because I'm short.
OK. You're short, so, I... [Chuckles] Now, sit up, look at me.
So, I gotta get it just right.
OK. You are 22 7/8ths, which is about a 7 1/4.
But I can see that you're narrow in the front and wider in the back, so, this is going to tell us exactly.
How did you get in this business?
Well, I stumbled upon it.
Koger: I corralled her.
You corralled her?
She--she coerced me into it.
Are you from Oklahoma?
I'm a Texan.
I thought Texans didn't get along with Oklahomans.
Yeah, well, that's just Fort Worth north of the Red River, I say.
The best cowboys, are they from Oklahoma or Texas?
[Koger laughs] That'll get you killed, I think.
That's not a good question.
That'll get your shot.
Not a good question?
OK. Koger: There's your head shape.
OK. Now, will I pick the color I want or something or what colors do you have?
We have lots of colors.
Lot of colors.
OK. Show me the colors.
Koger: Well, I think, just looking at you, I would probably go with like a silver mist.
Well, that looks like The Lone Ranger type, um... Well, we shape 'em any way you want 'em shaped.
Oh, you want--um...
But what--what about like this one or, you know... Well, that's a tan.
I mean, I'm just looking at your hair and everything.
What about this one?
Is this a good one?
That's--you've got good taste.
That's the elite-- that's elite beaver.
I picked out the most expensive one?
OK. Let me just see if it'll go on your head.
Woman: Oh, look at there.
You see the difference it made in your looks?
So, my big question really is this.
What is the symbolic importance of a cowboy hat to a cowboy?
The cowboy hat, to me, just spells out integrity about a person.
If you're a real cowboy and you're a rancher or whatever, you wear your hat most-- you don't take it off till you go to bed sometimes.
Well, if my mother could only see me now.
I mean, she would say-- [Laughing] She'd be very proud.
"You were born to be a cowboy."
That's what my mother always said.
See, now that hat-- But this is for real cowboys, not weekend cowboys like me, right?
You fit the bill.
So, what I want you to do is I want you to grab it right there and put it on your head, and don't touch the brim.
Woman: Look at that.
That looks real nice.
Woman: That's his cattle baron-- that's his cattle baron hat there.
Rubenstein, voice-over: The cowboy hat is an essential part of a mythic cowboy getup.
But I wanted to understand what life was truly like for real cowboys, and that took me to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
Grauer: The whole cowboy story is a supply-and-demand story, which starts with the demand for beef, and then the demand for a workforce, and then a demand for the equipment and tools that a cow-- that was specific to the cowboy.
So, you have a lot of saddles here, I see.
What is it about this saddle that is so important to you?
This is a cowboy's office right here, and so, he had to keep it in--in good shape.
And at the same time, there's a sense of pride in how you ride.
And the saddle strings you see here are partly decoration but they're also to lash things through, 'cause, remember, once you're mounted, you had to take all your stuff with you.
So, did the saddle really originate in Latin America or Spain or something?
The North Africans who conquer Spain in the 8th century brought a new style of riding and a new style of saddle to Spain, which crosses the Atlantic to Mexico.
And that changes everything with horseback herd management, which was to throw the lasso from the back of a horse and tie the other end to the saddle horn.
And this becomes the model and the foundation for what we know as the Western stock saddle today.
And the cowboy had to make it himself.
And he would have probably been an enslaved Black man or an enslaved Native American.
And, generally, in-- in cowboy culture, it didn't matter what color or culture a man came from.
If you could do the job, they all congregated together.
Now, of course, there was racism and other bigotry that occurred from time to time, but that was the exception, not the rule.
The rule was, if a man could make a hand-- and that's the expression.
If you could do the work, it didn't matter if you were green, they accepted you.
When did the era of the cowboy actually begin?
Really, by the 1760s is when cowboys were in what we call the United States today.
And, remember, the large herds that they were driving from Mexico, that was open-range ranching.
Williams: The range was open.
There was no fences.
And people would drive cattle up here to graze virtually for free.
A cattle drive...that's an art form that's truly lost.
Grauer: The trail driving era is after the Civil War up till about the late 1890s.
The American diet does a complete flip away from pork to beef after the Civil War, so, there's a great demand for beef cattle across the country.
Williams: They would drive them straight north on the Texas Trail, 10 or 20 miles a day.
You would have a full cook on staff, the trail boss, 6 or 8 cowboys you probably hired to get 'em here.
And they had to trail in some blizzards and cold and rain and, and--just tough, tough guys.
Grauer: Bad weather was always a threat.
Disease was always a threat.
Guys got sick, broken bones, you get kicked by an animal, gored by an animal.
Occasionally, you would have a stampede.
[Hoofbeats thundering] It took a special kind of person with grit and determination, a lot of independence, because they have to improvise, adapt, and overcome.
They were rebels, too, because they were fiercely independent ranchers and do not like centralized government, and that plays a role in how the cowboy is seen, especially as that idea moves north.
Johnston: Many people believed that the American cowboy was somebody who would not fight against American expansion, American industrialism, American upper class, but somebody who would then protect their interest more.
The labor movement at the time, this class revolution beginning here in America, really weighed heavily on their minds, but the cowboys, they could be trusted because their fighting spirit was directed not at upper classes, like the socialist movement, but was directed more at these forces that were stopping American expansion.
In the years of the open range, wherever the buffalo could graze, they could graze a cow.
For the most part, it's short grass country.
That means each time a cow takes a bite, there's a huge punch of protein in that.
It's kind of a cattleman's paradise.
Well, it didn't take long for some large cattle barons to try to turn a profit on free land.
Grauer: It was basically a "get rich quick" opportunity, and it was all about "How do we maximize this resource, which is grasslands, um, to make money?"
And the best way was through beef cattle.
But the Homestead Act is already in effect.
Rubenstein, voice-over: The Homestead Act of 1862 provided that any citizen who had never borne arms against the U.S. government could claim 160 acres of government land as long as they cultivated their plot.
Williams: The Homestead Act broke up the large cattle syndicates and gave any average American a chance to ranch and own our own little piece of America.
And so, you fenced it out, built a structure, and it was then yours.
This news traveled around the world that if you immigrate and start a life out there, that you can own property in America.
They want the West populated.
So, all of them tried it.
A lot of them failed.
I'm sure some people died.
But my ancestors did it.
[Cattle lowing] Great-grandfather came 1925.
My granddad Charlie's place, he homesteaded that place.
I feel like it is in the lifeblood of all these Western towns.
People forget that.
Cowboys were the first homesteaders living there, and they were probably a reason the majority of those towns existed.
With the homesteaders come homes, towns, banks, civilization, and these grasslands will be covered up.
With the addition of fencing, that changed the cowboys' job to different things.
They claim that the end of the Wild West is when barbed wire was invented.
The cowboy certainly lived on, but in a different sense.
And then along comes this figure that nobody really ever heard of before, a cattle drover who would make a deal with whatever that rancher is, wherever he was, and say, "For a dollar a head, I will drive your cattle to market."
That's not really very exciting.
So, how do we make him more exciting?
We make him a hero.
We heroicize him.
And, of course, the popular culture got ahold of that stereotype that a cowboy was a gunman and decided that was the symbol.
And that's a disservice.
It's a disservice to history and it's a disservice to us.
It really is.
And so, I get--I get pretty-- pretty worked up about that, because the real cowboys, in most cases, we'll never know their names.
[Dog barks] Rubenstein, voice-over: So, how does a real cowboy in today's world deal with that disconnect?
Begay: Sometimes when I go to the airport or a mall or something and I hear little kids, "Mom, is that a cowboy?"
The mom just said, "Shh.
And then they're like, "Are you a real cowboy?"
I'm like, "I don't know that.
"I don't know the answer to that.
"Like, I don't know what you've seen or what "your image of as a cowboy, but...
I've got cows and I take care of them, so--" Or every now and then I'll ask 'em, like, "What--what's the image of a cowboy for you, like, where do you see it?"
Rubenstein, voice-over: I was once one of those little kids.
I'm pretty sure they saw it in the same place I did-- on TV and in the movies.
[Western-type music playing] Uhh!
Rubenstein, voice-over: But how did the cowboy come to dominate so much of popular culture for so many decades?
["Bonanza" theme playing] Well, it goes all the way back to the birth of motion pictures at the beginning of the 20th century.
In fact, one of the first movies ever was a cowboy film made in 1903 called "The Great Train Robbery."
This scene had terrified audience members fleeing the theater.
Ellsworth: The Western had universal appeal, particularly at the beginning of the 20th century.
The first cowboy films are silent, of course, and they are morality drama.
Oftentimes, a woman is gonna be in peril because of the guys in the black hats and the good guy comes on and--and rescues her.
They were a huge, significant portion of-- of Hollywood's output and also profitable for the studios.
It certainly helped to build Hollywood.
Cowboy movies always seemed to end with the good guys winning.
Was that on conscious purpose?
I think that's typical of the era.
But in the 1940s, you're starting to see directors like Howard Hawks and John Ford and others who are now creating Westerns that are much more mature, that were complicated and complex, and you start to have larger themes show up.
With "The Searchers" in 1956, you have John-- John Wayne as a not entirely likable character.
He is an openly racist character, and Ford doesn't shy away from that.
[Gunshot] And that vision of the West is a little closer to the reality.
Why do you think that the scriptwriters and the movie producers and directors didn't have black cowboys and Latino cowboys and Native American cowboys?
Why did they only have white cowboys?
What happened in the years around World War I and the 1920s is this rise of this new dominant militant white racism, the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915.
The studios realize they're gonna lose money if we have people of color.
You're not gonna see Black people.
Indians tended to show up as a somewhat faceless enemy.
Hispanic Americans are often portrayed as being devious.
Women are largely, though not entirely, absent.
Rubenstein, voice-over: I knew that women played a huge role in the Western expansion, not only in homesteading but in cattle ranching.
Why were they left out of the story?
There was a reaction in the 1920s and the 1930s to women winning the right to vote, and there was very much a effort in American society to put American women back in their place in the home.
And by the time, David, that you and I are growing up, you have Dale Evans.
And Dale is fine and we all love Dale, but she's also very feminine and a bit demure.
We have to remember that in the Bill Cody era, you got Annie Oakley.
Woman: Annie Oakley, of course, was a sharpshooter.
One of the best, not just of women but of men and women.
She was the first female superstar in the U.S. Of course, she rode.
And the women in these Wild West shows did all sorts of things.
They eventually were riding broncs.
They were doing some trick riding.
But so much of our history of the American West is very much this male, mythic, how the West was won, and women get entirely dropped from this narrative.
And we know that there were women who were ranching and who did have herds and who did drive cattle up the Chisholm Trail.
The portrayals of the West, beginning in the 1920s, get more whitewashed, and this mythic cowboy, a White masculine figure, got even more ubiquitous, largely because of advertising campaigns.
Man: ♪ Sky up above, river below ♪ ♪ It's a rocky old trail all the way... ♪ Ellsworth: During the 1950s and '60s, cowboys were everywhere, everywhere that you can advertise.
These art directors and artists who are making these commercials are extremely talented folks.
They've got big ad budgets and they know how to make an image that's gonna stick with you.
The Philip Morris Company realized that whenever they showed a cowboy, there was a certain blip in their marketing research and the cowboy was really the most masculine figure.
Then they finally realized, "Let's go with this."
And it was a brilliant campaign, the idea of "Come to Marlboro Country."
What they're selling is freedom, independence, people outdoors in the fresh air.
The West, as a cultural backdrop, held a great appeal to Americans.
They're living in cities, in crowded tenements.
They're working in factories.
This is a way that you can be a part of this larger myth and a part of this larger sense of being free.
And did the campaign work?
It worked brilliantly.
It became the largest selling cigarette in the United States and eventually the largest in the world.
It's one of the most successful advertising campaigns of all time.
But after the television ads get banned, it's just a billboard figure, a one shot on a magazine spread.
The depth of character gets lost.
No longer do we have Gary Cooper in-- in "High Noon" with all of this complexity.
Instead, we simply have the cardboard image on a billboard or--or the Naked Cowboy in Times Square.
Rubenstein, voice-over: So, how is the old, mythic symbol of a cowboy being transformed in today's America?
Ellsworth: As different portions of the American population not only found their voice but are allowed to speak their voice, the question to us today is, "How can you "take this archetype and re-create it "in a way where women's voices are amplified "to the point that they've long deserved "and rarely gotten, "where different ethnic groups are portrayed and come back into the picture?"
They were always there.
We don't have to look far.
The historical materials, there are plenty of them to show it.
Rubenstein, voice-over: To learn more about the true diversity of cowboy culture, past and present, I traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, where the livestock and rodeo shows date back to 1896.
Fort Worth is also home to the Cowboys of Color Rodeo.
♪ ♪ I met with the founder of this rodeo, 83-year-old Cleo Hearn.
Hearn: Tell you what, the bulls don't care what color you are and most of the time, people don't care.
They just wanna see if you ride the horse or bull or either the horse or bull ride you.
People come to the rodeo and they're like, "I never knew this existed.
I never knew there was a Black cowboy," you know, even though the West was made up of 1/3 to 1/4 of Black cowboys and Native American cowboys and Hispanic cowboys.
They just thought it was a White guy that they see on TV.
Nobody ever told you who Nat Love was.
Nat Love was a cowboy back in the 1800s, one of the best ropers around.
Man: There's a lot of Black figures who've been left out of the cowboy history because that history has largely been whitewashed.
Nat Love was a former slave from Tennessee who traveled west and ended up working as a cattle rancher.
Bill Pickett also comes to mind.
Wendell Hearn: Bill Pickett was actually on a postage stamp, I think, in the early nineties or late eighties.
But I already knew about Bill Pickett because my dad always told us about him.
We had pictures of him, you know, with the steer wrestling and bulldogging.
Cleo Hearn: Steer wrestling was invented by a Black cowboy named Bill Pickett.
Rubenstein: What is that event?
That's where you ride a horse up beside a steer, jump off the horse on the steer's head, and throw him down.
I remember performing in rodeos when I was 12 or 13 years old.
Did it all.
I rode a few bulls.
I rode some bareback horses.
Made the most money in calf roping and steer wrestling.
Wendell Hearn: My dad, he was the first African-American cowboy to win a major rodeo in the PRCA, Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
He was a big deal in the rodeo community and he broke a lot of barriers in the rodeo game.
But that's a story that people really didn't know.
King: This is a country that has told itself a mythology of equal access and democracy.
It has never truly adhered to or lived up to or embodied its own democratic ideals.
We tell lies about our own history.
And I think in this contemporary moment, there are growing movements to tell the real history of America, to really teach people, especially at a young age, how we really came to be as a country.
We want African-American people and everybody to know that the West was made up of what America really wants to be, everybody working together-- Black, White, Native American.
Even if you think about-- there were Chinese working.
Everybody that was in the West worked together because they were working for one common cause.
It made no difference what color you were.
We use the word Cowboys of Color so we could encourage the White, the Black, green, or the purple person would come.
If you were a Black person and you knew Cleo Hearn was gonna rope and I was good and you like that or you wanna see it or educate your kids to see it, you'd bring them to the rodeo.
In rodeo, as I understand it, there are events that are judged by people.
They give you a judging score.
And there are other events that are timed events where there's no doubt who the winner is because the time is the time.
You preferred timed events, I assume, over judged events?
And why was that?
Most people don't like to talk about it, but you'll always have people look at the color of your skin to determine how good you are or determine how good you wanna be or how much money gonna let you win.
So, in a judged event, somebody might say, "Well, I don't want a Black cowboy to win."
In a timed event, though, there's no doubt that whoever has the best time wins.
But who's starting and stopping the watch?
Oh, you mean even in the timed events, it might not be completely fair?
I can tell you that for facts.
I've had people in the stands tell me, "We started the watch when the bell hit, and, Cleo, man, you were faster than that."
Uh, there's always gonna be that way.
Times haven't changed.
They're still the same.
Wendell Hearn: Cowboys of Color Rodeo, the responsibility is over when the African-American cowboy's no longer a novelty.
♪ When you see an African-American cowboy, it's not a shock anymore.
Rubenstein, voice-over: In Fort Worth, Texas, I also learned about another group that made a huge contribution to the growth of the West but has been mostly missing from cowboy history.
Woman: Here's someone who may interest you.
This is an honoree.
Rubenstein, voice-over: At the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Director Diana Vela gave champion bronc rider Lake 'Iolani Stevens a tour.
And she's got Yeah.
a ranch saddle just like we ride.
Stevens: We were in South Dakota at Belle Fourche.
We went into a restaurant and they were like, "Oh, are you guys here for the rodeo?"
We were like, "Yeah."
They're like, "Oh, you're barrel racing?"
And we're like, "No.
We're riding broncs."
After winning it and getting awarded it, they were like, "Yeah, this is the first time in over 80 years "that a woman has even won a bronc riding here in Belle Fourche."
And I was like...[gasps] "No way.
This is my first buckle.
This is such a huge history step."
It's such a big thing coming from Hawaii.
I wanna represent the little islands that I call home as much as I can and in the best way I can, you know?
So many women who paved the trail for us and as we're trying to pave the trail for more women to get into it.
Even though I wasn't raised in rodeo, who I am comes from the village that raised me on the islands as the little surfing hula dancer.
Like, the person I am today is because of those people and what they did.
So, here we've got a split skirt.
This was seen as a way for women to be able to ride astride, but when they got off, it had the appearance of being a full skirt.
And as you know, it was really frowned upon for women to wear pants and also to ride astride, and...
It still is, I think.
A lot of people have opinions about women riding broncs.
Oh, absolutely, they do.
It's just--you know what?
It's like, what is that incantation that we're in right now that you really shouldn't be doing?
It's a manly thing.
And then we've got some programs, including one from Cheyenne in 1928.
That's really cool.
I still have my program from when I rode ranch broncs there last year.
So, how did that feel?
Were you nervous?
I think I was more excited.
I--like, the bigger the crowd, the more fun I have, I think, 'cause the louder they are and it fills you really when you're riding.
How did you feel immediately after?
The guy who runs our association, he was like, "Don't cry," and I was sobbing, and they were trying to take pictures, but it was my first bronc riding buckle and it was like, "This is real.
Like, I did this," and it's-- and I'm sobbing.
And everyone was like "Stop it!"
But it was really big for me because I competed with a lot of men, and it wasn't until one of my good friends were like, "You should join the women's association."
I was like, "But it's not that serious."
She's like, "No, you can go to Cheyenne."
And I was like, "I can go to Cheyenne?"
They were like, "Yeah."
So, I jumped in on it.
Crazy when you're having fun, like, you don't notice that you're out here trying to win a bunch of stuff, you're just having fun.
And making history, too.
They were like, "A woman hasn't won this title in over 80 years."
Well, there is a story about that, and it's about Bonnie McCarroll, who had to ride hobbled... Why did they have to ride hobbled?
Well, in her particular case, it was deemed to be more safe for her to ride--now, hobbled meaning the stirrups tied together underneath the horse, OK?
So, they said for a woman, if you wanna compete and if you wanna ride, you, you have to do it this way.
And this was to be her last ride.
So...so, she did.
And sure enough, the horse bucked and did a somersault and her boot got caught up and, and... A terrible idea.
And the newspaper accounts at the time say that every time that horse bucked, they could hear her head thump against the ground, until... 'Cause she got hung up.
'Cause she got hung up and could not get free and died 11 days later.
Um, so... there's some disagreement about whether or not this was the event that led to women no longer being able to compete at the same levels that they had been, directly against the men.
Or at all, huh?
'Cause they did.
They stopped for that 80 years, and I always wondered why.
I didn't know she got...
I didn't know she got killed.
But, you know, at the end of the day, there was not a champion for women at that time period saying, "No."
Who's standing up for the women?
I think that's what, like, we're doing now is bringing it back or trying to, anyways.
And it's been hard.
And I didn't know that's why it ended in the first place.
'Cause that was a while ago.
Rubenstein, voice-over: So, how far have we come since those days when women were barred from rodeo?
[Rodeo announcer speaking indistinctly] Rubenstein, voice-over: The final stop of my cowboy journey was in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where every year, they host the ultimate rodeo, the Super Bowl of cowboy competitions.
[Rodeo announcer speaking indistinctly] [Horse whinnies] Begay: I love coming here at Cheyenne Frontier Days.
They call it the Daddy of 'Em All.
The biggest rodeo they have, so, everybody that has a chance to come, they'll come.
So, I've been coming every year since 2006.
Haven't missed it yet.
There's 12 teams, and the 4 fastest advance to the next round.
So, that's where we wanna be at today.
We wanna be one of the top 4.
That's our goal today.
Stevens: Being here, in general, is a huge deal.
And I'll be wearing the Cheyenne Frontier Days Buckle that I won last year, I think, just in honor of being here.
And the 2021 year was my first time competing at Cheyenne and it was very nerve-racking, I think, just being in the big crowd and with everyone.
So, we rode all year, kind of busting our butt to get to the Daddy, and the Cheyenne is the Women's Ranch Bronc Championships.
This is last year's buckle.
How did you get into this?
My friend suggested it as a joke.
One 4th of July, she's like, "There's a rodeo down the road.
And I was like, "No."
And she was like, "They won't be any worse than the saddle horses we've been riding."
So, I went and I got really hurt.
Like, a lot of injuries from that one ride.
And then I was like, "Well, it can only go up from here."
Rodeo announcer: It's time for the Women's Ranch Riding Championships.
[Crowd cheering] Here we go for Team USA.
[Indistinct] Lake Stevens.
Goes wild away.
[Crowd cheering] [Indistinct] [Indistinct] [Crowd cheering] [Indistinct] number two today, 73 points!
[Crowd cheering] Begay: They take the top 15 to the national finals in Las Vegas.
And as of today, I think I'm 17th.
So, Cheyenne would help a lot.
Rodeo announcer: Derrick Begay from Arizona!
O'Harver: Derrick Begay is this roping sensation from the Navajo Nation.
[Rodeo announcer speaking indistinctly] [Crowd cheering] Derrick Begay with 22 points!
[Crowd cheering] Begay: Well, to sum it all up, they only take the top 4 times every day.
Top 4 times and top 4 scores every day.
They move on to the semifinals.
So, we're--that was our, our last chance to try to make it to the finals.
So, that was--we're done here.
We actually did pretty good today.
Them guys just--they did a little bit better than we were.
They only take 4 and we end up fifth, so, we were one out.
It's pretty disappointing, pretty discouraging, but this ain't the first time and it's not gonna be the last time.
But when you compete at a high level most of your life, I don't know what's worse, if I would have missed that steer today or just getting flat out beat.
And right now I think getting flat-out beat, a little harder than if I just missed today.
So, it--it--it makes me pretty upset.
I mean, I'm doing my best to try to hold it in right now, so-- but I guess that's--that's just the way it goes today.
See you, guys.
It was fun.
Take care of yourself and we'll be seeing you guys down the road.
♪ Rubenstein, voice-over: Coming to Cheyenne taught me that not only is cowboy culture alive and well in America today, it's far more diverse than the iconic myth I grew up with.
O'Harver: You know, cowboy lives in the heart, so, it doesn't matter if you have an office job.
If your thoughts are constantly turning to the wide-open spaces or the rhythmic beat of a horse's hooves and you're just waiting to get out there, that's cowboy.
Cowboy comes in so many different levels.
King: It is a foundational, defining core element of American culture and society.
It's been with us since the advent of a kind of mythologized American West.
When you look at the real history of the cowboy, it tells a very, very different story.
It tells a story that is a multicultural story, an intersectional story, a story that's about multiple genders and people who are multiracial.
So, I think what we have to do is be honest about our history, and this is a moment in which people are being increasingly honest about it.
Rubenstein, voice-over: When we understand the real history, we clearly see that Americans from so many different backgrounds can claim a connection to cowboys and are part of a story that is as rich and diverse as America itself.