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Workin’ from Can’t to Can’t: African-American Cowboys in Texas (1995)

McFaddin-Ward House

Sound | 1995

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  •  “Workin’ from Can’t to Can’t” explained 
  •  Cattle dipping 
  •  Three phases of cowboys 
  •  Television cowboys compared to the real deal 
  •  Families of cowboys 
  •  Dressing as a cowboy 
  •  Calling cattle 
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This 1995 documentary features combines interviews with predominantly African-American cowhands with archival footage to tell the story of ranching in Texas during the early twentieth century. The men share amusing anecdotes and reminisce about what life was like as “yesterday’s cowboys,” long before trailers and advances in mechanization helped to simplify ranching. The title “Workin’ from Can’t to Can’t” refers to the cowboys working from before dawn until after dusk: “Can’t see when you get up and can’t see when you lay down.”
The McFaddin-Ward House in Beaumont was built in 1905-06, in the Beaux-Arts Colonial Revival style. At 12,800 square feet, the oil-wealthy McFaddins lived in this grand house for nearly 75 years, before it was eventually opened to the public as a museum in 1986. With few substantive changes made to the home or its decor since 1950, much of the McFaddin-Ward House’s furnishings remain intact for the public to view.
Further information on the McFaddin-Ward House and its history can be found at the house museum’s website.