Law and Disorder
It was not unusual for a cowboy to blow his whole $100 stake during a few nights in the cattle town that lay at the end of the trail. The towns served as points of transfer from the trail to the rails. Here beef brokers shook hands on deals, and the cattle were loaded into rail cars bound for the cities of the East. For the cowboy, a stay in town meant a bath, a shave, a woman (300 prostitutes plied their trade in the small town of Wichita), and plenty to drink (in many towns, saloons outnumbered other buildings two to one). Such towns were also home to professional gamblers who were ready, willing, and able to part a cowboy from his cash. Like the mining camps of California in the the cattle towns of the latter part of the century were rowdy, violent places. Gunfights became commonplace—though, alas, neither so frequent nor so violent as they are on the streets of many American cities today.