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The theory on cowboys


Over the years, countless westerns have formed a very stereotyped image of cowboys from America's pioneer era. Everyone is familiar with the image of a lonesome, dusty cowboy with his six-shooter hanging ready at the hip. He drifts from one rough and lawless prairie town to the other, where you shoot first and ask questions afterwards, and where the local saloon can quickly transform into a lethal shooting gallery. 

Is this portrayal in accordance with the historical actualities? Yes, in fact it is, and especially the Clint Eastwood-type comes closest to the reality. Almost all cowboys looked and behaved exactly like him, and were hard, obstinate, and taciturn men. This was not because of the uncivilised and heartless society they lived in, as one would think. The explanation is merely that they drank the world's strongest coffee. 

The cowboys of that age managed the long and arduous work on the prairie by brewing incredibly strong coffee. It was typically made by pouring a few spoonfuls of boiling water into a pot of ground coffee. The strength was tested by throwing a horseshoe into the pot; if it sank to the bottom, the coffee was too thin.

This irresponsible consumption of caffeine was the reason for the cowboys' characteristic Clint Eastwood-look and behaviour. Most people are familiar with the reaction to an overdose of caffeine: The head is throbbing with too high blood pressure, whereby your eyelids tighten into small, wrinkled slits. The stomach feels disgustingly sour, whereby your mouth is tautened to a disdaining, fierce grimace. You are so tortured and anguished that you don't speak more than absolutely necessary, and then in a whispering and gruff tone of voice.

Furthermore, you are rather morose and jumpy, and if you are equipped with a gun, you could easily shoot someone. Especially if you really have to go to the toilet - which a cowboy very frequently should, as a lot of coffee makes you pee rather severely, and also causes diarrhoea - then you can easily get so desperate, that you have to gun down people that delay you in getting to the lavatory in time. Many shoot-outs in saloons stated as quarrels over whose turn it was to use the toilet, or if the proprietor said that you had to buy something if you wanted to use the lavatory. 

We can therefore conclude that the rough and violent behaviour of the cowboys was not caused by the raw and merciless society they lived in; they merely drank too much strong coffee.

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