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[Detail] Wayne Perry playing fiddle, Crowley, Louisiana.

Frontier Culture in the Southwest

The Lomaxes spent more than half of their trip in Texas, recording approximately 350 songs, many of which, along with photographs and correlative fieldnotes, reflect frontier culture in the Southwest from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. "Corrido del Soldado" (Ballad of the Soldier) documents the racism that marked the western, as it did the eastern, southern states."Corrido de las elecciones de Brownsville" and other songs found by searching for bandit, bandolero, Jesse James, and outlaw tell true stories lionizing western outlaws, while authentic cowboy songs such as "Old Chisholm Trail" give students a sense of the cowboy lifestyle. Have students consider the following questions:

  • What motivates the cowboys in these songs to be cowboys? Do they enjoy their work?
  • What tones and sentiments characterize these songs: happiness, sadness, regret, anger, fear, humor, resignation, determination, strength, sentimentality?
  • Why do you think cowboys made up and sang these songs? What do they suggest about the people who created and sang them?
  • How do cowboy songs differ from the work songs of other physical laborers? What do these differences suggest about the differences between the work and lifestyle of cowboys and other physical laborers?
  • How does the representation of cowboys in these songs compare to those in movies, novels, and popular culture?

For a unique look into the Southwest of the late 1930s, students can browse the Fieldnotes and Photographs the Lomaxes made in Texas. In addition to the lawlessness and cowboy lifestyle of the Southwest, students will get a sense of its multiculturalism and community.