I was leafing through Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly of April, 1892, in the hope of finding some material with which to greet the (hopefully) coming spring when I happened upon a romantic story entitled, ‘The Owner of LT Ranch.’ Since anything to do with ranching and cowboys is always of interest to me, I naturally had a quick read. What struck me immediately was the different ways in which the ranch owner, an easterner from New York, and the local characters were portrayed. To sum it up as best I can, a local rancher’s wife is depicted as introducing the heroine of the tale with the words, “un o’ our neighbors ‘cross the crick,” (sic) while the heroine refers to the hero as, “A real live New York gentleman out on the plains of Kansas—and he don’t know what a fence cutter is…”
Well, times have changed and the world is a smaller place thanks to television, Internet and the rest of the digital- and tele-communications upon which we so heavily rely nowadays. Local accents are smoothing out somewhat and airfreight makes the same foods available in Washington DC as in Washington state. While the average New Yorker may not have use for a fence cutter, he will most certainly know what they are.
Yet differences exist—they have to. We live in different geographies and different climates. Our histories are different as are our economies. Indigenous peoples created backgrounds to which lines of immigrants and settlors brought different cultures. As immigration continues to occur, it will continue to impact local populations. And differences exist within the west and within the east for the very same reasons. Boston is different from NYC, Denver is a contrast to Santa Fe and California is a law unto itself. In many ways, the southeast bears more resemblance to the west than it does to the north. So, in BROAD, GENERAL TERMS, what differences do I note when I, as that ‘real live’ New Yorker, find when, several times a year, I head west? With my tongue in the general vicinity of my cheek, here’s what I note:
In New York:
- We don’t drive pickups. (Anything in the back would be stolen within seconds when parked);
- Y’all is not a word;
- Groceries are delivered to your door;
- Dogs are generally small and have to be walked on a leash, and the owner has to collect the dog’s mess;
- Gun clubs are predominantly cops and folks wanting to rob the local 7/11;
- Two stepping is unknown, Texas two stepping totally unheard of;
- Kenny Chesney is basically known as a former husband of Renee Zellwegger—few actually listen to his music;
- A sprinkler system is to water the plants at your country retreat, not to water the foundation of your home in hot weather as in TX;
- Not a cowboy hat/Stetson in sight except when the PBR comes to Madison Square Garden in January;
- Jeans are rarely Levi’s or Wranglers;
- Grass fed beef is something exotic on a menu not the cows out your window;
- If you happen to keep a horse or at least ride, you ride English and wear English gear;
- Horses are kept in a stable not a barn;
- You don’t have a garbage disposal unit in your kitchen;
- You cannot write about your ancestors horrific journey across the Great Plains as they headed west because the west was NYC to them;
- You have no interesting outlaws in your ancestry nor do your forebears and relations include any Tys, Coles, Cals, Jesses, et.al;
- Jack is the fellow your daughter is dating, not something in a glass;
- A man who’s been rebuilt is a cartoon superhero, not a Professional Bull Rider who’s had multiple accidents;
- ‘Cowboy Poetry’ consists of Roy Rogers singing “Happy Trails”;
- A plaid shirt with snaps is something worn to bed not out on the range;
- A range is something you cook on;
- Rocky Mountain Oysters are a strange ingredient on cooking shows which most people think are actual oysters;
- We can live without a car though many don’t;
- ‘Wide open spaces’ in NYC is Central Pk. measuring 1.317 sq. miles;
- Cold in NYC is 30°, cold in the NW is -5°; very cold in NYC is 18°, very cold in the NW is -27°;
And finally: A cowboy is someone who is meant to repair something in your home, does a lousy job and overcharges NOT someone who rides a horse and looks after cattle
And is the hero of the west…
Please add to this list below. I will try not to take offense 😉
AS part of the Fool for Romance blog hop, I am happy to be giving away one digital copy of my western historical romance, Loveland, to someone who likes my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/writerAndreaDowning if you haven’t already and then answers the question: What is the setting for my story, Lawless Love? The answer should be sent via the comment box on this website at https://andreadowning.com/about/ and the answer can also be found on this website. The Fool for Romance blog hop runs all month.
Hey, Andi, you forgot to mention that in NYC you have windscreens on your cars. In the west and in Texas, we have windshields. Or…is that your King’s English showing? Just saying…..
No, windscreen is British not USA eastern. I still get confused even though I have moments and minutes sorted!
Sorry to be late with this, I had the flu when this came up and spent most of the week resting.
Alas, I have no interesting ancestors in my family tree. They were Welsh Quakers, took up a Penn land grant and spent the next 300+ years being totally boring. My mother has the family history to prove it. Although there was one cousin several generations back who was completely weird. One of his sisters was a nymphomaniac. Wish I could have asked my grandmother for the details, but all that remains is the memory of certain meaningful remarks. That is, remarks said in a meaningful way… “Oh dear, there’s mold on that pumpkin pie.” “Well, never mind, Chalkley will eat it…”
I suspect there’s a book in there somewhere, Celia. Thanks for stopping by.
Alas, no. I’ve looked over the family history. Dullsville central. As for Chalkley and the nymphomaniac sister … just not that much to go on. Although the ggg-grandfather did keep an Underground Railway safe house. It was an alternate house, though – he didn’t have the nerve enough to keep it in his own house.
Lol! When you said “the west” I automatically assumed you meant the west coast! And that’s totally different! No wonder I was confused. I don’t say y’all! Loved your list. Makes me want to visit both places
Well, I RECKON y’all’re not a true westerner! But, heck, thanks for stopping by! And if you make it to NYC, get in touch…
I really chuckled at this, Andi. I live in the Midwest. And I have definitely Easternized my speech. I don’t say y’all–it’s you-all. LOL.
Although I suppose to those in NYC anything east of the Ohio River is ‘the West.’ Very enjoyable post.
What kind words, Barb! It’s funny but, yeah, west is a lot of things to different people. In my group, Women Writing the West, west is west of the Mississippi. to me, West is a state of mind! Thanks for your comment here and elsewhere!
You don’t have a garbage disposal in your kitchen? Well that is astonishing! I grew up in Northwest Montana/Idaho and up there a car/pickup/truck/ are all called rigs. Here in Kansas, a car/pickup/truck are all called car/pickup/truck, and on occasion, a vehicle. My grandparents (Dad was 6 yrs old) were participants in the last Oklahoma land grab.
I’m laughing, Eunie, that you find it astonishing we don’t have garbage disposal units. I think they came in for a brief while but now even high-end apartments in the city have eschewed having them installed. I think it was felt, and discovered, that they are more trouble here than they are worth–trouble with our elderly plumbing! Although the unit breaks down mass to a certain degree, it doesn’t liquify it, and that cause problems in the old systems. I have heard of pickups being called “rigs” and certainly ‘trucks.’ But whatever you call it, they’re not seen in the city. Thanks so much for your comment.
Great list, Andi, and basically spot-on. Or is spot-on British? Oh well! Probably the only outlaws I have in my family are those who made bathtub wine (not whiskey, just good healthy grapes) back during Prohibition, and only for the use of family and friends, not for general sale (or so I once heard).
Ah, Darcy, I avoided most of the language differences except y’all (and then there’s “I reckon”) because I do get confused between my old British English and American English. Have been trying to sort out windscreens and windshields for several years now… Thanks for stopping by!
I love your list, and the fact that you were able to make it without making either side sound either condescending or illiterate! I’m pure Midwest–leaning more toward pickups and plaid shirts-sans-snaps.
Liz, I’ll certainly have to learn more about the mid-west. Plaid shirts WITHOUT snaps, huh? That’s certainly a good compromise between east and west! Thanks for that bit of info 🙂
Hi Andi, Having spent 9 years living in New York before returning west, and raised in Kansas now living in Arkansas, I could make a different sort of list because I live in both the south and the west now, which can produce all sorts of confusions. We have cowboys here but we also have gentlemen (think Clark Gable) with old southern charm, plantations reside alongside ranches where not only cattle and horses are raised, but huge poultry houses shelter 20,000 chickens at a time.
I really enjoyed your list, as I always do your posts.
How interesting, Velda. A map I’ve seen shows that area immediately west of the Mississippi and marked off by the branch that goes through Little Rock as ‘Old South,’ also including east TX, so I can well envisage what you describe. Thanks for your kind words.
Great post, Andi! I too was surprised at no garbage disposals in NYC, but your explanation cleared things up. I agree, West is a state of mind, as is “Cowgirl.” As Dale Evans once said,” “Cowgirl is a pioneer spirit, a special American brand of courage. The cowgirl faces life head on, lives by her own lights, and makes no excuses. Cowgirls take stands. They speak up. They defend the things they hold dear. A cowgirl might be a rancher, or a barrel racer, or a bull rider, or an actress. But she’s just as likely to be a checker at the local Winn Dixie, a full-time mother, a banker, an attorney, or an astronaut.”
That’s really interesting, Heidi. Sometimes when someone here tells me I’m tough or whatever, I’ll answer, ‘Well, yeah–I’m a bit of a cowgirl.’ Sadly, though, that recent program on t.v. about cowgirls didn’t do too much for the image. I came away understanding completely why REAL working cowgirls now call themselves cowboys… Gee, that garbage disposal unit has been getting a load of people scratching their heads! LOL Thanks for your input.
As a lifelong (native) Texan, I never knew a cowboy who’d wear snaps on his plaids…that’s for eastern wanna-be’s. But they might in other places.
Also, we always wave at folks we pass, whereas when I visit my cousin in NYC I’m told not to even make eye contact, much less interact.
I’m so glad Karen answered for me. When I travel the west I see a lot of real cowpunchers in shirts with snaps. Maybe it is, as she notes, generational. Funny thing about the waving, though. I once read an illuminating blog on how Texans wave while driving and the different sorts of waves. Nope, you certainly won’t find that in NYC–more likely they’ll be flipping you the bird, to put it bluntly. Thanks for your additions!
Regarding the comment about snaps on plaid shirts. Lynn, you must be quite young. I, too, am Native Texan, grew up a small ranch near an oil boom town. Snap plaid shirts worn skin tight was THE thing back in the mid 50s – 70s. A gal or guy wouldn’t be caught dead at the rodeo unless wearing his or her finest.
“….worn skin tight WERE the thing….” ??? Calling all editors? Haven’t had my coffee yet!
Well caught! “shirts…were…”