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  作为美国故事中不可或缺的一部分,牛仔已经成为民族偶像式的人物。他们是浪漫主义的化身和粗犷野性的代表,象征着美国的开疆历史、西进扩张运动和开国神 话。在好莱坞电影的渲染和现实生活中“坏小子们”的影响下,英勇、勤劳、善骑、思想自由的牛仔成为美国历史中必不可少的一页。

Cowboys in America  美国牛仔:不朽的美国精神
From pbs.org  译 / 陈继龙
An integral part of the story of America, the cowboy is a national icon, a romantic, rugged1) metaphor for America’s frontier past, Westward expansion and creation myths. Sensationalized2) by Hollywood and by real-life bad boys, the heroic, hard-working, hard-riding, free-thinking cowboy is inseparable from American history itself.
The Early 1800s: The Vaguero Age
         America’s first cowboys came from Mexico. Beginning in the 1500s, vaqueros—the Spanish term for “cowboy”—were hired by ranchers3) to drive and tend to livestock4) between Mexico and what is now New Mexico and Texas. During the early 1800s, and leading up to5) Texas’s independence from Mexico in 1836, the number of English speaking settlers in the area increased. These American settlers took their cues from6) the vaquero culture, borrowing clothing styles and vocabulary and learning how to drive their cattle in the same way.      
The vaquero influence persisted throughout the 1800s. Cowboys came from a variety of backgrounds, and included European immigrants, African Americans, Native Americans and Midwestern and Southern settlers. In the nineteenth century, one out of three American cowboys in the south was Mexican.
The Mid-1800s: Railroads and Cattle Trails
         As America built railroads further and further west, fostering industry, transportation and white settlements in former Indian territories, the cowboy played a crucial part in the nation’s expansion. In the early 1800s, Texas cattleman had herded cows via the Shawnee Trail to cattle markets in St. Louis and Kansas City. During the 1860s and following the Civil War, they began herding via the Chisholm and Western Trails towards the new railroads in Kansas, where livestock was then loaded into freight cars and transported to markets around the country.
In less than two decades cowboys herded more than six million cows and steers7) to the railroads. Most cowboys were young—the average age was 24—and hard-working men in need of quick cash, although the pay was low. The work was exhausting and lonely. Cowboys also helped establish towns, spending their money in the “cowtown” settlements across the west during their time off8). Townspeople frowned on9) cowboys as lawless troublemakers who brought nothing but violence and immorality, and some even banned them from town.
The Late 1800s: Home on the Range
Ranching, or the raising of cattle or other livestock on range land, also expanded during the late nineteenth century. The forced removal of Native Americans and the clearing of the American frontier resulted in the near extinction of the region’s many buffalo and bison. This land, now dominated by white homesteaders, was used for ranching.
Public lands on the Great Plains10) constituted “open range,” where any white settler could buy and raise cattle for grazing. The invention and distribution of barbed11) wire in the 1870s revolutionized the concept of privately owned land in the Midwest, fencing off12) homesteads suitable for farming and ranching—but also limiting the work to be done by cowboys.
The 1900s: The Rise of Privatization
       With the rise of private landholdings in the late 1800s, the cattle driving industry had lost its cachet13). Private landowners and “free grazers”—vaqueros and cowboys alike—locked horns14) over what was appropriate use for land whose ownership was also in question. By the 1890s, the wide open ranges and cattle trails were gone and privatized, and the days of the long cattle drives to the railroads were over.
Smaller-scale cattle drives continued until the mid-1900s, with livestock herded from Arizona to New Mexico and throughout the southwestern United States. Most cowboys left the open trail and took jobs at one of the myriad of private ranches that were settling across the West. But as the work of actual cowboys declined in the U.S., the cowboy lifestyle continued to be popularized—and stereotyped—by a new Hollywood film genre: the Western movie.
Cowboys Today: A disappearing Way of Life
The late 1900s were tough times for cowboys, ranchers, farmers and anyone working with the land in the U.S. Changing modes of food distribution and production, widespread urbanization and severe economic difficulties forced many to sell their land, go bankrupt, change professions, or take out large loans. As Vern Sager15) says in The Last Cowboy, “Don’t seem quite fair. A person works hard to make a little and gives it to the bank.”
Cowboys in the 21st century might seem like an anachronism16), but as Sager demonstrates, their work still needs to be done. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, cowboys—included in the occupation category “support activities for animal production”—numbered 9,730 workers in 2003, making an average of $19,340 per year, working in ranches, stockyards17) and rodeos. About one-third of these workers were listed in the subcategory of “spectator sports,” making their living primarily at rodeos, circuses and theatrical venues as livestock handlers.
As the ranchers and cowboys of Sager’s generation age, who will be left to do their jobs? Despite decades of socioeconomic change, cowboys still don’t have health insurance—and they don’t retire. Times might be changing, but as a symbol of persistence, self-sufficiency and a hard work ethic, cowboys live on.
作 为美国故事中不可或缺的一部分,牛仔已经成为民族偶像式的人物。他们是浪漫主义的化身和粗犷野性的代表,象征着美国的开疆历史、西进扩张运动和开国神话。 在好莱坞电影的渲染和现实生活中“坏小子们”的影响下,英勇、勤劳、善骑、思想自由的牛仔成为美国历史中必不可少的一页。
美国最早出现的牛仔来自于墨西哥。16世纪初期,在墨西哥与现今的新墨西哥州和得克萨斯州地区,农场主们开始雇佣vaquero (西班牙语,意为“牛仔”)帮他们驱赶和照料牲畜。从19世纪初期直至1836年得克萨斯州脱离墨西哥独立,这一地区说英语的移民人数不断增多。这些美国移民们纷纷学习墨西哥牛仔文化,不但借鉴了牛仔们的衣着风格和日常用语,还学着和他们一样驱赶自己的牛群。
较小规模的赶牛活动一直持续到20世 纪中期,期间人们将牛群从亚利桑那州赶往新墨西哥州,以及美国西南各州。大多数牛仔纷纷离开开放性的牛道,前往西部各地的众多私人牧场中谋职。不过,就在 真正的牛仔工作在美国日渐衰微的时候,牛仔的生活方式却延续了下来,被大力推广——也被固定化和模式化。这得益于好莱坞的一种新型电影题材:西部电影。
对于牛仔、牧场主、农场主以及所有在美国那片土地上工作的人而言,20世 纪晚期的那段时光充满艰辛。食品分配与生产方式的不断变化,城镇化的不断推进,还有严重的经济困境迫使许多人要么变卖土地,要么宣布破产,要么另谋生路, 要么负债累累。正如弗恩·赛吉尔在《最后的牛仔》中所言,“似乎不那么公平,一个人辛辛苦苦才挣那么一点点,却都交给了银行。”
在21世纪,牛仔似乎是与时代格格不入的一代人,然而正如赛吉尔身体力行所证明的那样,他们仍然有用武之地。据美国劳工统计局称,2003年,从事牛仔工作——属于工种分类中的“为畜牧生产提供辅助性劳动”——的总计有9730人,平均年收入19, 340美元,主要就职于牧场、饲养场以及牛仔竞技表演会场。在这些人中,约有三分之一的人的从事的工作被列在“观赏性体育运动”这一范畴内,主要靠在牛仔竞技、马戏以及杂耍表演中驯养牲畜为生。



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