One of the most pervasive notions of American cultural identity is that of the Old West and the myth of the cowboy. This month we stick a magnifying glass up to those notions to see where they originate, and where they continue to resonate.

You can listen to the full episode, or download it here:

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You can also head to the individual segments for the audio, full conversations, and web extras:

Let’s ask the Locals
Roundtable Discussion: Cowboy Myth and Culture and the Pikes Peak Region
Western Jubilee
Profile: Scotty Hall
The Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site
Q & A: The Tumblin’ Tumbleweed
The Hayden Scientific Expedition

Western Skies is a collaboration between KRCC News and the Big Something.


Let’s ask the Locals

KRCC’s Tristan Dickison stopped by two visitor hotspots in the Pikes Peak Region, namely Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs, to ask locals and tourists about the American West, and how Colorado figures in as part of that legacy.

Listen, or download here:

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Roundtable Discussion: Cowboy Myth and Culture, and the Pikes Peak Region

Left-Right: Matt Mayberry, Kim Walker, Anne Hyde. Photo: Noel Black.

There’s a lot of cultural identity surrounding the American West. To talk about some of the origins of these notions, and the myth of the cowboy, we’re joined this month by Kim Walker, professor of digital film and media arts at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; Anne Hyde, history professor at Colorado College and author of the recently published book Empires, Nations, and Families which details the American West from 1800-1860; and Matt Mayberry, who directs the Colorado Springs Pioneer’s Museum. Matt also sits on KRCC’s Community Advisory Board. We begin with Matt Mayberry answering the question…what does it mean to be Western as it relates to the American West?

Listen to the conversation as aired, or download here:

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Here’s the full conversation, also available for download (about 1 hr long):

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Western Jubilee

If the cowboy is nothing more than a myth, no one told the folks at Western Jubilee Recording Company in Colorado Springs. KRCC’s Noel Black stopped in one recent night to hear the high lonesome sounds of the Old West.

Listen to the piece below, or download here.

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Profile: Scotty Hall

KRCC’s Craig Richardson also went in search of a real cowboy to explore the boundaries between myth and reality. Here, Scotty Hall of Pueblo explains the realities of ranching in the 21st century.

Listen here, or download:

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The music in this piece was by Don Edwards, Rich O’Brien and Ed Bruce.


The Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

On the eastern plains of Colorado near the town of Eads, is the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. It marks the place where Colonel John Chivington led about 700 territorial militiamen to an encampment of Cheyenne and Arapaho. By one estimate, at least 160 Indians were killed and mutilated, mostly women and children. KRCC’s Andrea Chalfin recently visited the site to see how it connects the past to the present, and the importance of examining popular conceptions of myth and reality.

You can listen to the piece below, or download here.

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Park Ranger Craig Moore provides this account of the Sand Creek Massacre events (about 22 minutes long):

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As to the many people involved with or contributing to the Sand Creek Massacre, park ranger Craig Moore offers the following thoughts.

Colonel John Chivington

Colonel John Chivington, photo from Wikipedia, indicated as public domain

 

Continued to stand by his actions at Sand Creek. Moore:

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Chief Black Kettle

Chief Black Kettle, photo from Wikipedia, indicated as public domain

Killed at the Battle of Washita River near present day Cheyenne, Oklahoma. Moore:

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Captain Silas Soule

Captain Silas Soule, photo from Wikipedia, indicated as public domain

Shot on duty as a Provost Marshall in Denver in 1865. Moore:

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Q & A: The Tumblin’ Tumbleweed

Creative Commons/Flickr

One of the most iconic symbols of the Old West in film and television is that of the tumblin’ tumbleweed. But the tumbleweed has a dirty little secret. It’s an invasive species. High County News editorial fellow Emilene Ostlind recently wrote an article about the plant after researchers contacted her regarding studies they’re doing to control tumbleweed. KRCC’s Andrea Chalfin spoke with her about what she discovered about what is less commonly known as the Russian thistle.

You can listen to the conversation as aired or download here:

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You can also listen to the full interview, or download it here (about 28 minutes long):

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Here you can read Emilene Ostlind’s original article, “It May be High Noon for Tumbleweed.” Emilene joined us from the studios of KVNF in Paonia.


The Hayden Scientific Expedition

On the day that marked the 2nd anniversary of the founding of Colorado Springs, the New York Times imagined the wondrous discoveries the Hayden Scientific Expedition of the Colorado Rockies would uncover.

Listen here, or download the piece:

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This piece was produced by Craig Richardson and Noel Black. Music is “The Wild Wagoner” by Jilson Setters. But to return to the petrified stumps…!

 

2 Responses to Western Skies: July 3, 2011, “Cowboy Myth and Culture”

  1. Bob Kinford says:

    If you are going to put the “cowboy myth” up to a magnifying glass, as least get your facts straight.
    Wild Bill Hickok was not a myth, but a man whose name was James Butler Hickok. Calamity Jane was another actual person whose actual name was Martha Jane Cannary Burke.
    Cowboys did get into Occasional Indian battles on trail drives, but had them more often on their home ranches.

    Colorado may be one of the largest Urban area in the country now, but a mere thirty years ago it was mainly agriculture. I remember thinking someone had to be crazy to open a Burlington Coat Factory Outlet store in Castle Rock. At that time Castle Rock was only a truck stop surrounded by cattle ranches, not the urban area it is now. The reason it is no longer being used for agriculture stems directly from the fact of people moving into the state and driving up property tax rates to the point agriculture is no longer economically viable.

    The “freedom” of the drifting cowboy is actually a trap, or possibly a disease, but it has NOTHING to do with avoiding women. If I were to take any of the people conducting this round table to a remote ranch and turn you loose to do the work, you would be totally intimidated by the environment. ON the other hand, the few people who thrive in that environment get claustrophobic in your environment of crowded houses, apartments and shopping malls.
    Perhaps you would be better off interviewing cowboys, ranchers and farmers who are raising the food you eat. While there are cowboy poets and singers who are connected to agriculture, ones like Waddy Mitchell have spent so much time entertaining and perpetuating the myth, they have forgotten about the actual life. You can find some of these “Agritainers” at http:/www.txcg.org

  2. Andrea Chalfin News Dir. says:

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for listening to Western Skies, and for taking the time to write your comments.

    Although James Butler Hickok and Martha Jane Canary Burke were indeed real people, there is a lot of myth surrounding these historical figures and others, like William F. Cody, Wyatt Earp, and so forth. Their stories carry on in film, television, literature, and even back in the dime-novels as originally suggested in the round-table. Today those stories carry a nugget of truth, but at some point, truth ends and myth begins. None of these figures, however, were exactly known for rustling cattle, yet they still fit within the lexicon of the Old West, or the frontier west, and by extension, the myth of the cowboy.

    The drifting cowboy as portrayed in popular culture, like film, is a romanticized notion that plays into the concept of escapism, and thus can be linked to a particular time period and the social mores of that time period.

    The goal of this episode of Western Skies was to bridge the gap between reality and myth; it’s why we chose the panelists we did. We also took the time to talk to a real cowboy (see Scotty Hall). While Waddie Mitchell may spend his time talking and singing about being a cowboy, it does not invalidate his experiences. Rather, it perpetuates the romanticized notions associated with the topic, thus connecting in one man’s experiences both aspects of myth and reality.

    If you are interested in hearing from farmers and ranchers, please feel free to listen to our Western Skies episode on agriculture, which you can find here:

    http://radiocoloradocollege.org/2010/09/western-skies-september-5-2010-agriculture/

    We also feature a monthly series on agriculture, called Mise en Place:

    http://radiocoloradocollege.org/category/mise-en-place/

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