They Died With Their Shirts On
something like 85-90% of cowboys were transmasculine, conservatively speaking
It’s a wonder the West isn’t more crowded than it is. City makes a lot of people nervous, on account of how many people already live there. Some of us get a little itchy around the ankles once the local population ticks past 10,000 or so, and once you get the itch there’s nothing else for it but to chase after the next sunset. California’s nearly full up of men looking for someplace lonesome. Out West a man learns not to step on his neighbor’s privacy fast, or else learns how to get out of town faster.
Anyone who reads the papers knows that every few years the local sheriff hauls some old horse thief out of Fremont County, publishes an old picture of him on his dear old Ma’s knee, and dear old Ma swears he was baptized Flora, and the sweetest little soprano the Akron Pennsylvania Dutch Twice Received choir ever heard, to boot. Then old Aaron or Methuselah, who strictly confined his appropriation to a few busted-down skates and abandoned draft horses a year and hardly ever bothered anybody, is given his choice of facing the noose or going on the lecture circuit as the remarkable Tieresias reborn, half-man, half-woman, All-American marvel of the miraculous frontier, and more often than not he opts for the lecture circuit. It’s not a bad retirement, as those things go, even if it does mean going back East and answering a lot of unmannerly questions in a lot of second–best parlors.
What they don’t print in the papers is that, if they cared to, they could fill every second-best parlor from DeKalb to East Millinocket with old Aarons, and that once you step a foot across the Mississippi, all bets are off. Not just horse thieves and typesetters, but prospectors and laundrymen, camp cooks and blacksmiths, traveling parsons and ferriers, fur trappers and tailors – hardly a one answers to the name he was born with. And every one of them, to a man, thinks he’s the first one to come up with the idea to swap a bonnet for breeches.