Cowboy Photographer: Erwin E Smith
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   Spring/Fall Roundups
     Gathering the Herd
     Cutting
     Branding
     The Stray Man
   Summer Trail Drive
     Cattle on the Trail
     The Railhead
     Day Herder
     Night Herder
     Open-Range Branding
     Chuck Wagon
     Remuda
     Dangers on the Trail
   Winter Work








Seasonal Work | Spring/Fall Roundups
The best photographic opportunities were during the roundups, and Smith was there at the appointed time. The cattle were allowed to graze freely throughout the winter, but in the spring they were gathered together and sorted by ranches. The spring roundup would last as long as thirty-five days. The process included cutting out, or separating, individual calves for branding, castration, and dehorning, then cutting out mature steers (or beeves) to be driven to market. Strays were cut out and returned to their ranges by the "stray man" that would travel from outfit to outfit. The remaining cattle were then returned to their own ranges. Fall roundups were similar, except that mature cattle would not be taken to market.

Right before the trail drive, the cowhands often branded the cattle. They would build a wooden chute and run a string of cattle through it, applying the brands through the chute slats. But not all cattle were branded during a roundup. Some were missed and, while unbranded, were considered mavericks that could be claimed by any outfit. When these unbranded animals were discovered, the cowboys had to brand them quickly with whatever implement was available. Smith documented the practice of branding on the open range with a branding iron made from a ring off of a cinch. Rather than stamping the iron down flat on the hide, as one would normally do, the cowhand created the brand by simply drawing the mark with the hot edge of the ring.


Erwin E. Smith (1886–1947)
Picking His Matador Cow [Roundup Scene], Matador Ranch, Texas, ca. 1905-1908
Nitrate negative
Erwin E. Smith Collection of the Library of Congress on deposit at the Amon Carter Museum
LC.S59.480
 
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Made possible through generosity of Erwin E Smith Foundation
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