Under the Diehard Brand Glossary
Stories from the Golden Age reflect the words and expressions used in the 1930s and 1940s, adding unique flavor and authenticity to the tales. While a character’s speech may often reflect regional origins, it also can convey attitudes common in the day. So that readers can better grasp such cultural and historical terms, uncommon words or expressions of the era, the following glossary has been provided.
angoras: chaps (leather leggings the cowboy wears to protect his legs) made of goat hide with the hair left on.
appetite over tin cup: head over heels; bowled over.
batwings: long chaps (leather leggings the cowboy wears to protect his legs) with big flaps of leather. They usually fasten with rings and snaps.
Billy the Kid: (1859–1881) a nineteenth-century American frontier outlaw and gunman, reputed to have killed twenty-one men, one for each year of his life.
Bird Cage Opera: “Bird Cage Theater,” also referred to as “The Bird Cage Opera House Saloon.” This was a fancy way in the 1880s of describing a combination saloon, gambling hall and brothel.
brimstone: “fire-and-brimstone”; threatening punishment in the hereafter.
buckboard: an open four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage with the seat or seats mounted on a flexible board between the front and rear axles.
buffalo gun: .50-caliber Sharps rifle, also called the “Big Fifty,” which weighed twelve pounds. Noted for its power and range, it was the almost unanimous choice among buffalo hunters. The drawbacks were the cost of ammunition and the fact that the rifle’s accuracy was seriously affected by rapid fire (it had to be watered down constantly to keep from overheating).
bulldogging: throwing a calf or steer by seizing its horns and twisting its neck until the animal falls.
cat-eyed: said of a badman who has to be constantly watchful to keep from being “downed” by a rival. Most men of this type make it their business to sit with their backs to the wall, facing the door.
cayuse: used by the northern cowboy in referring to any horse. At first the term was used for the Western horse to set it apart from a horse brought overland from the East. Later the name was applied as a term of contempt to any scrubby, undersized horse. Named after the Cayuse Indian tribe.
century plant: a plant with grayish green leaves that takes ten to thirty years to mature and flowers just once before dying.
chinks: short leather chaps (leggings), usually fringed and stopping just below the knee, worn over the pants for protection.
chuck wagon: a mess wagon of the cow country. It is usually made by fitting, at the back end of an ordinary farm wagon, a large box that contains shelves and has a hinged lid fitted with legs that serves as a table when lowered. The chuck wagon is a cowboy’s home on the range, where he keeps his bedroll and dry clothes, gets his food and has a warm fire.
Comanche: originally a part of the Shoshonean tribe, the Comanches emerged as a distinct group shortly before 1700. This coincided with their acquisition of the horse, which allowed them greater mobility in their search for better hunting grounds. Their original migration took them to southern plains extending from the Arkansas River to Central Texas. By the mid-1800s, they were supplying horses to French and American traders and settlers. Many of these horses were stolen and the Comanches earned a reputation as formidable horse and later cattle thieves.
cowpuncher: a hired hand who tends cattle and performs other duties on horseback.
cow town: a town at the end of the trail from which cattle were shipped; later applied to towns in the cattle country that depended upon the cowman and his trade for their existence.
cuspidor: a large bowl, often of metal, serving as a receptacle for spit, especially from chewing tobacco, in wide use during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Digger Indians: a name for Indians of the Southwest, Great Basin (between the Rockies and Sierra Nevada) or Pacific Coast. Most of these Indians were Shoshones or Paiutes. They were often called Diggers due to their practice of digging for roots.
drew rein: from “draw in the reins,” meaning to slow down or stop by exerting pressure on the reins.
dry-washing: extracting gold from dry gravel by use of a machine.
dust: to depart.
false-fronted: a façade falsifying the size, finish or importance of a building.
faro: a gambling game played with cards and popular in the American West of the nineteenth century. In faro, the players bet on the order in which the cards will be turned over by the dealer. The cards were kept in a dealing box to keep track of the play.
fastnesses: remote and secluded places; secure places, well protected by natural features.
Fifty Girls Fifty: a chorus line of girls performing synchronized routines such as the can-can where they wear costumes with long skirts, petticoats and black stockings. The main features of the dance are the lifting up and manipulation of the skirts and high kicking.
fleeced: having deprived one of money or belongings by fraud, hoax or the like; swindled.
forked leather: mounted a saddled horse.
.45 or Colt .45: a single-action, .45-caliber, six-shot cylinder revolver first manufactured in 1873 by the Colt Firearms Company, a company founded by American firearms inventor Samuel Colt (1814–1862). The Colt, also known as the Peacemaker, was reliable, inexpensive and due to its popularity with cowboys became the symbol of the Old West.
forty-five or .45: a six-shot, single-action, .45-caliber revolver.
forty-one or .41: Derringer .41-caliber short pistol. Named for the US gunsmith Henry Deringer (1786–1868), who designed it.
G-men: government men; agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
GN: Great Northern Railway, the tracks of which extended more than 1,700 miles from Minnesota to Washington state.
gold-chased revolvers: gold-engraved metal, as ornamentation on a gun.
greensticked: the incomplete fracture of a bone in which one side is broken while the other is bent.
hammer-headed: stubborn, mean-spirited (of a horse).
hazed: drove (as cattle or horses) from horseback.
heeled: armed with a gun.
Henry: the first rifle to use a cartridge with a metallic casing rather than the undependable, self-contained powder, ball and primer of previous rifles. It was named after B. Tyler Henry, who designed the rifle and the cartridge.
hide-out: a gun, usually a short-barreled gun that can be hidden upon one’s person.
hitchrack: a fixed horizontal rail to which a horse can be fastened to prevent it from straying.
Hood River: a county in Oregon, extending from Mt. Hood north to the Columbia River.
Hopi Indians: a Pueblo Indian people of northeast Arizona noted for their craftsmanship in basketry, pottery, silverwork and weaving.
ladino: a wild, unmanageable ranch animal.
lariat: a long noosed rope used for catching horses, cattle, etc.; lasso.
larrup: to strike; to thrash.
lath: made with narrow strips of wood formed into lattice.
lineback: having a stripe down its back that is of a different color from the rest of its body.
livery stable: a stable that accommodates and looks after horses for their owners.
longhorn: a name given the early cattle of Texas because of the enormous spread of their horns that served for attack and defense. They were not only mean, but the slightest provocation, especially with a bull, would turn them into an aggressive and dangerous enemy. They had lanky bodies and long legs built for speed. A century or so of running wild had made the longhorns tough and hardy enough to withstand blizzards, droughts, dust storms and attacks by other animals and Indians. It took a good horse with a good rider to outrun a longhorn.
mow: haymow; the upper floor of a barn or stable used for storing hay.
Nevadas: Sierra Nevada mountain range of eastern California, extending between the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys and the Nevada border.
papooses: Native American infants or very young children.
poke: a small sack or bag, usually a crude leather pouch, in which a miner carried his gold dust and nuggets.
pole-axing: striking down.
Pole Star: North Star; a star that is vertical, or nearly so, to the North Pole. Because it always indicates due north for an observer anywhere on Earth, it is important for navigation.
puncher: a hired hand who tends cattle and performs other duties on horseback.
quirt: 1. to lash or flog with a riding whip. 2. a riding whip with a short handle and a braided leather lash.
rag-tailed: “ragtag and bobtail”; describing a group of persons regarded as the lowest class.
redeye: cheap, strong whiskey.
rowels: the small spiked revolving wheels on the ends of spurs, which are attached to the heels of a rider’s boots and used to nudge a horse into going faster.
run-over boots: old boots where the heel is so unevenly worn on the outside that the back of the boot starts to lean to one side and does not sit straight above the heel.
scatter-gun: a cowboy’s name for a shotgun.
Scheherazade: the female narrator of The Arabian Nights, who during one thousand and one adventurous nights saved her life by entertaining her husband, the king, with stories.
Sharps: any of several models of firearms devised by Christian Sharps and produced by the Sharps Rifle Company until 1881. The most popular Sharps were “Old Reliable,” the cavalry carbine, and the heavy-caliber, single-shot buffalo-hunting rifle. Because of its low muzzle velocity, this gun was said to “fire today, kill tomorrow.”
Sierras: Sierra Nevada mountain range of eastern California extending between the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys and the Nevada border.
single-action Army: Colt Single Action Army (SAA); a single-action, .45-caliber revolver holding six rounds. It was first manufactured in 1873 by the Colt Firearms Company, the armory founded by Samuel Colt (1814–1862). Initially produced for the Army to incorporate the latest metallic-cartridge technology, civilian versions were also made available in .32-, .38-, .41- and .44-calibers, among many others. The SAA, also referred to simply as Colt or the Peacemaker, gained popularity throughout the West and has become known as the “cowboy’s gun.”
single jacks: short-handled hammers with a three- to four-pound head. They are used to punch holes in rock.
sombrero: a Mexican style of hat that was common in the Southwest. It had a high-curved wide brim, a long, loose chin strap and the crown was dented at the top. Like cowboy hats generally, it kept off the sun and rain, fended off the branches and served as a handy bucket or cup.
spittoon: a container for spitting into.
Stetson: as the most popular broad-brimmed hat in the West, it became the generic name for hat. John B. Stetson was a master hat maker and founder of the company that has been making Stetsons since 1865. Not only can the Stetson stand up to a terrific amount of beating, the cowboy’s hat has more different uses than any other garment he wears. It keeps the sun out of the eyes and off the neck; it serves as an umbrella; it makes a great fan, which sometimes is needed when building a fire or shunting cattle about; the brim serves as a cup to water oneself, or as a bucket to water the horse or put out the fire.
tapaderos: heavy leather around the front of stirrups to protect the rider’s foot.
trail herd: a herd of cattle driven along a trail, especially from their home range to market.
truck: miscellaneous items.
varmints: those people who are obnoxious or make trouble.
wet stock: stolen cattle; cattle stolen from Mexico into Texas were taken across the Rio Grande River, and these were called “wet stock.”
whang leather: tough leather adapted for strings, thongs, belt-lacing, etc., commonly made from calf hide.
whup into shape: “whip into shape”; to bring forcefully to a desired state or condition.
Winchester: an early family of repeating rifles; a single-barreled rifle containing multiple rounds of ammunition. Manufactured by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, it was widely used in the US during the latter half of the nineteenth century. The 1873 model is often called “the gun that won the West” for its immense popularity at that time, as well as its use in fictional Westerns.
wrangler: a cowboy who takes care of the saddle horses.
yucca: any plant belonging or native to the warmer regions of the US, having pointed, usually rigid, sword-shaped leaves and clusters of white, waxy flowers.