The Untold Origins Of The American Cowboy

What the Black Cowboy Museum can tell us about the people who tamed the West.

By Joy DiazNovember 14, 2019 3:13 pm, ,

Larry Callies was a country singer, managed by George Strait, until he lost his voice due to vocal dysphonia. Now he is the owner of the Black Cowboy Museum, a place that reminds visitors that not everyone in the Old West looked like the characters of a John Wayne movie.

In fact, Callies says, the first cowboys were black.

“Back in the 1820s, they had slaves that worked the cows. And they would say ‘hey boy, go get that cow.’ And they started saying, ‘that’s my cowboy.’ They had a house boy, a yard boy and somebody to work the cows. He was called a cowboy,” Callies says.

The Black Cowboy Museum houses a collection of artifacts from slaves who roamed the Texas Wild West in the 1850s.

“I have a badge that was dated back in 1858. It says ‘slave patrol police.’ It was one of the first badges ever made,” Callies says. “I have a carving of a slave from 1850. They brought two slaves to Rosenberg. One was a woman and one was a young man. They split them up and he missed his mom so much, he carved her face out of a tree.”

Callies also has some personal items in his collection that belonged to his own family history. Like the pair of boots that his grandfather used to own.

“My grandpa’s boots were from 1930,” Callies says. “They are brown. They have two eagles on them. They would have been made in Mexico. They’re pointy toe, like they had back in the day. He was a small man and they’re a little bit small for me, but I can put them on.”

Like him, Callies’ grandfather was a singer. He used to sing and play the guitar in church. Callies says his grandfather used to call him “Doc” and would drive him to the store in his 1955 Chevy.

Callies says the sight of his grandfather wearing those old boots inspired him to get a pair for himself.

“He used to wear those boots and I just remember I wanted a pair of boots like that,” Callies says. “And finally my mom when I turned five years old, bought me a pair of red boots. I think mine had doves on it, but my grandpa’s had eagles.”