Sunday, September 27, 2009
The Cracker Cowboys
I'm writing my paper on the Florida Cracker cowboys, and one of my primary sources is the article "Cracker Cowboys of Florida," written in 1895 by Frederic Remington, a famous writer, painter, and sculptor of the "Old American West." In his article, Remington, who is familiar with the "bilious fierceness and rearing plunge" of the more famous western cowboys, is introduced to Florida's own brand of cowboy-the Cracker cowboy. As opposed to the romanticized view of the tough, western cowboy, Remington describes the much less idealized version he encountered in the lawless "wilderness" of Florida. Law, justice and morality "cease to operate" in the backcountry of Florida, as the "cow-people" fight each other for "half-starved and horribly emaciated" cows, on land not exactly ideal for raising cattle. Cattle rustling is common, the bosses too afraid to step out of their houses at night to assert any semblance of order or control, and any attempt at law is met with a large group of silent, rifles-carrying men in the courtroom, therefore making "any decision...bound to be a compromise." It is obvious that Remington prefers his western cowboys of legend, describing the Cracker Cowboys as brutal, desperate, and yet "picturesque in their unkempt, almost unearthly wildness."