The stronger, the better. “Firewater” was a common nickname for their drink. And they made sure their booze was potent. To be certain, cowboys spit the booze in the air and ignited it, if it didn’t explode in flames, they got their money back.
Besides straight whiskey, one beverage preferred by Westerners was a cocktail of burnt sugar, alcohol, and chewing tobacco which had a very high alcohol content. Cactus wine was another popular drink. It was made by combining tequila with peyote tea. One can only imagine how wasted these people got every day getting by. But, just going by the statistics of deaths at bar fights, you can get an idea.
Cowboys Were Plagued with Fungal Infections
The cowboys in the Wild West had to deal with some seriously itchy and uncomfortable fungal infections. Since they spent months on their trusty horses without much chance for a good scrub, these pesky diseases were bound to pop up. The armpits, crotch, buttocks, and feet were the prime spots for these annoying infections to strike. Imagine the constant itching and burning!
To make matters worse, there weren't any cures available, so they just had to suffer through it. And if they couldn't resist scratching, well, that only made things worse as those pesky fungal spores spread even more. Phew, let's be grateful we don't have to deal with that as modern folks!
Cowboys Had the Reputation of Smelling Like Their Horse
Being a cowboy in the Wild West came with a pungent downside: the constant, lingering smell. With limited access to bathing facilities and spending days on end exposed to the elements, the horse's and its rider's odors would inevitably blend together. To make matters worse, cowboys were prone to developing Staph and impetigo infections from cuts and sores on their skin, which emitted an unpleasant stench.
Fortunately, these infections weren't usually life-threatening, but they were highly contagious and became an ongoing part of cowboy life. So, not only did the cowboys have to contend with the rugged conditions of the trail, but they also had to endure the unrelenting aromas that accompanied their adventurous lifestyle.
Education Was Not a Thing on the Frontier
Not only did people out West have no education or knowledge of transmitted diseases, but they also had no hope of a cure. And there was a lot more hanky-panky out West than most people assume. Saloons allowed women in those days and employed them for entertainment, dancing, and serving whiskey. Women often married clientele or, just as often, were beaten by drunken cowboys. Brothels also flourished.
With a 1 to 3 ratio, men outnumbered women creating a shortage of marriageable women and a higher demand for intimacy. Hygiene practices, or the lack thereof, helped spread all kinds of diseases like tuberculosis, which they called consumption. Syphilis was the most common STD in the Old West.
Food Was Plentiful Out West
Frontier folk went without clean water and basic hygiene, but there was no shortage of food. Buffalo, squirrel, rabbit, and other game were shot and killed for meals. They stored stocks of dried beans, flour, sugar, and oats. Foods like meat and fruit were dried for long stints on the trails. Beans were the most common food for traveling cowboys.
Food was cooked and served for breakfast and supper using Dutch ovens, frying pans, boiling pots, and other devices. Special treats included fruits, vegetables, and sarsaparilla. Produce like fresh corn, tomatoes, apples, and squash were devoured with abandon. When you think about it, they didn't have it all that bad.