Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area


No Sombreros Then: Clothes of Early Day Settler Have No Similarity to Those on TV


By BURTON 0. LUM
Tri-City Pioneer
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, September 4, 1960, page 2

First let us consider the wearing apparel of the “Buckeroo” of this region. I can’t help but laugh at the tight clothings and garbs worn by the TV buckeroos. The buckeroo of the early day in the Tri-Cities preferred his clothes quite loose, giving him freedom of action and more comfort in both hot and cold weather. His boots were of calves skin leather with high heels. The tops were about thirteen inches in height and had leg room for two pair of pants and a pair of red flannel drawers. (There were no union suits in these Early Days.) The sox for cold weather were hand knit woolen: for warm weather cotton “Rockford” socks that you can still buy in the stores today.

The younger and more slender buckeroos kept their trousers up with fancy leather or beaded buckskin belts and wore their gun belt and holster above it. In this region the holster was never tied to the leg. The blue all wool, quite heavy flannel shirt with white pearl buttons and two breast pockets were worn the year round with nothing under it in the summer time but plenty of undershirts in the winter. A red or blue bandana handkerchief was worn around the neck either tied or fastened with a poker chip buckle. The buckeroo generally had a red a blue and a green silk kerchief. The buckeroos in this region did not wear the sombrero. His favorite hat was a medium weight John B. Stetson grey felt hat with a straight eight inch brim. The crown of which he wore indented or porkpied. The popular gloves were those made by the Indian squaws out of buckskin of their own skinning and tanning, either wrist length or with gauntlet. The trousers were made of blue denim, and the pockets were reinforced with copper rivets. They were called blue denim overalls. The legs were large enough to go over a pair of pants and woolen underdrawers. The bottoms were without cuffs. A blue denim loose jacket was worn when needed over the blue wollen flannel shirt. It was called a “wampus.” In cold weather the buckeroo wore a rather short coat. Canvas on the outside and lined on the inside with tanned sheep pelt. His chaps for winter were covered with tanned pelts of the coyote, wolf or bear. The buckeroo generally had a fancy vest of a tanned, with the hair on, spotted calf skin.

The older buckeroos who had become paunchy wore suspenders to hold their pants up and used a shoulder holster for their gun instead of a belt. “Levis” were never heard of in these early days.

A buckeroo’s accouterment consisted of a rawhide lariet to rope with and a hair rope to place around the area to keep the snakes out. A roll of blankets to sleep in and some saddle blankets, also a pair of swival chain horse hobbles, a picketing rope, a pair of roul spurs, a western steel horn, single cinch breaking saddle with wide stirrup, starps and sudadero, a bridle and hackamore. He had to furnish at least five head of saddlehorses.

The early day settler when not riding the range wore heavier boots with lower heels. He wore his trousers tucked in the boot tops a great portion of the time. He wore wide eleastic web “Police Suspenders,” which are yet available, to support his blue denim overalls.

In the warmer weather he wore Canton flannel or flour sack underwear made by his good wife. She also made his calico shirts, her own house dresses, the childrens clothes, knitted socks and stocking for the entire family and kept the family’s clothes in repair and clean. Which detergent to use in her washer or what lotion to put in her dishwater for her hands or what temperature the water should be was none of her problem. She did not have that kind of washing machine and laundry. She placed her tin wash boiler on the kitchen stove, carried in water from the well and filled it, put some good dry wood in the stove; and when the water started to boil, she placed two wooden bottomed kitchen chairs nearby, sat a large wooded wash tub on them, placed the “Irish Piano” - or washboard- in the tub and washed and rinsed the colored clothes first and hung them out to dry, then washed, rinsed starched and hung out the white clothes. She then scrubbed the kitchen floor. Her hands were hard, red and rough. Her fingernails were worn almost to the quick. But when a child was sick, she went to her comode and brought forth the lone bar of pears soap and her treasured bottle of Florida water and with the tin wash basin filled with warm water, she washed the face of the ailing one and anointed his head and lovingly placed the hard, rough hand on his fevered brow. It felt to him as soft as a breast of a dove and as soothing as a prayer.

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