A cowboy’s daily routine was unpredictable. He might spend half the day or half the night rounding up cattle from a stampede, or he might come to the end of a tranquil day of riding, eat his evening meal calmly by the camp fire, talking and laughing, enjoy some leisure time, then turn in for a night’s sleep broken only by his turn to do the night watch.
If he did have leisure time over the long evenings, he might join in collective recreation – playing music, singing songs, reciting cowboy poems. Depending on how tired he and his fellows were, they might play games that involved pitching horseshoes, or they might practise their roping because cowboys would take advantage of any opportunity to hone their roping skills on animate and inanimate targets alike.
Cowboys were often able and resourceful people, and away from the distractions of their families, the bright lights of a town or the bordello, they used their time in individual diversions as well. Reading was a favourite pastime throughout the history of the West – one can imagine cowhands turning the pages of a book to the light of the camp fire. Certain of them also wrote the poems about cowboy life which, if good enough, would become a part of the tradition and be recited around other camp fires.
The evening was a good time to repair tack and gear, to decorate leather items with tooling, or to braid rawhide for ropes or horsehair for decorating hats and clothes. The tools needed for any of these crafts, and the half-finished objects themselves, would be stowed away in the cowboy’s War Bag in the middle of his bedroll ready to be unpacked next evening and continued if circumstances permitted.