Edited film explores the myth and origins of the cowboy in North and South America and the extent to which the myth and legend are accurate portrayals of this romanticized lifestyle. Narrator, Michael Martin Murphy, examines the rugged daily lifestyle as the cowboys set up teepees, round up herds and horses, fit horseshoes, rope cattle, shear sheep, and sing at the end of a long day's work. Origin of the cowboy is explained as dating back to the late 15th century Spanish expeditions to Argentina which introduced herds and livestock to plush grasslands where they would multiply and roam the countryside. From this was born Argentinian Gauchoes, or cattle hunters, whose language, equipment, dress, and crafts set the pace for all cowboys both then and today. As well as exploring the strong Spanish influence on present day customs and practices of cowboys, the film acknowledges the contributions of many other groups including freed slaves after the Civil War and Navajos. Footage depicting scenery and daily activities include: Mexican cowboys singing songs over a fire; fitting horseshoes; building teepees; making a saddle and tack; roping and branding cattle; riding horses thorugh deep snow; chopping wood; performing odd jobs to supplement meager earnings; taming broncos; rodeo competition; and natural stockyard. Various themes also explored include the influence of the media on the image of the cowboy as gunman and rodeo hero; the impact of the railroad, automobile and windmill on cowboy herding techniques; the Gaucho as a newly resurrected symbol of Argentinian national pride; and the integral role of dancing and singing. Interviews with cowboy/singer/songwriter, Ian Tyson, and various other cowboys from the southern tip of South America to Canada reveal an intense love of nature, solitude, and freedom in a profession which cowboys consider more a lifestyle than an occupation.
Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Museum Support Center, Suitland, MD