The wild rag | TheFencePost.com

The wild rag

Tales from the ONO Ranch
Mad Jack Hanks
Wellington, Colo,

What is a “wild rag” you might ask. Hey, it’s okay to ask that question as most of the folks I come in contact with when I’m being a social butterfly have no idea.

If I were in Amarillo, Cave Creek, Ariz., Greeley, Colo., or Billings, Mont., most folks I think would know. Here in Fort Collins, Colo., where I go to dance and shop, etc., I have folks comment, “that’s a really nice scarf you are wearing. I have even had folks refer to my wild rag as an ascot.

Yup, gentle readers, that wildly colored silk scarf you see around cowboy poets and most real cowboys, in cold weather is called a wild rag. Most women that have asked me about it or commented on it when I am dancin’ with them seemed a little taken back when I refer to it as a wild rag.

“In the cowboy culture, we refer to it as a ‘wild rag’ because that’s always what it has been called,” I inform them.

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“The wild rag has many uses. Mostly for warmth, keep branding smoke or dust out of one’s face, as a pot holder around the camp fire, a tourniquet, blindfold a horse and a arm sling, or splint!”

The wild rag reached popularity back in the 1880s as a means to keep one’s neck warm in extreme weather.

It actually began when cowboys cut up old flour sacks to tie around their necks and as it gained popularity the wild rag took on a more delicate and professional look. I’ve worn one since I began to “cowboy” back in the 70s. One might consider a wild rag a little feminine for a tough cowboy. Our founders wore powdered wigs, silk stockings, shirts with large ruffles, and high heeled shoes! How about them apples Buckwheat?

The wild rag has many uses. Mostly for warmth, keep branding smoke or dust out of one’s face, as a pot holder around the camp fire, a tourniquet, blindfold a horse and a arm sling, or splint!

I personally have blindfolded a horse and when I broke my other leg back in 82 I used the shaft out of a hot shot and my wild rag to make a splint until I arrived at the hospital. I always have one around my neck in this cold Colorado weather and yes, folks do take a second look depending on how colorful my “rag” is.

They are very popular with cowgirls as well. My granddaughter wears one when working in the feed yard.

Folks in the ranching business, or “cowboying” as we like to say usually are seen with a wild rag around their neck when outdoors in cold weather. If you want to see a zillion wild rags, go to the National Western Stock Show in Denver this year and you will even see farmers from Iowa grooming their show cattle outside wearing wild rags. They are EVERYWHERE at the stock show. You need to go anyway, so enjoy those colorful, manly, feminine wild rags when and where you see them. I don’t think you will see any cowboys in powdered wigs or silk stockings, but you will see a lot of high heeled boots!

Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion, work harder this year than last if you can, reach out to those that need it and I’ll c. y’all, all y’all. ❖


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