The ranch house and the bunkhouse, though only 50 feet apart, were two different worlds. The cowboy’s day was spent tending cattle, mending fences, and taking care of horses and equipment. It was a strenuous, often monotonous life, relieved by spring or fall roundups or a few days in a railroad town after a cattle drive. On the occasional trip to town he had a chance to replace worn-out boots or buy a pair of pants. Since a cowboy made only $20 to $30 a month, and a new hat might cost $20, he had to shop carefully and buy clothes and gear that were functional and durable.
The bunkhouse—home for the cowboys and ranch hands—lacked the amenities of the ranch house. Its pleasures were few and simple but appreciated. The food was plain. Yet, the meals at the long table were banquets compared with the rough fare on the trail or during roundups. A Chinese cook served beef, beans, and sourdough bread, a menu sometimes varied by bacon and eggs, vegetables, pies, cakes, and sweet biscuits called “bannocks.” In the evening the cowboys gathered around the stove to chew tobacco or smoke, swap stories, or listen to news brought in by cowboys from other parts of Kohrs’ far-flung empire.
While the rancher and his family might have been better fed and clothed, they hardly had an easy existence, at least in the early years. A rancher worked as hard as the hands, and his wife had to endure isolation and loneliness, not to speak of her labor on countless everyday chores. When they did achieve some success, their prosperity showed in the furnishings of the ranch house. The rancher’s wife tried to make her home as comfortable and gracious as possible and a good place for raising children and entertaining friends. The Kohrs, better off than most, lavished improvements on their house—the latest furniture, a brick addition, indoor plumbing, lighting, and central heat—and traveled widely.
For all the tangencies of their lives, the rancher and the cowboy were partners in an intricate, often risky business: a rancher depended on good cowboys; a cowboy appreciated a rancher who could make the ranch pay and was sensible and fair. They shared the common bonds of open grasslands, cattle, horses, and hard work.
Reprinted from National Park Service brochure.