What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Journeys

How the Gilded Age Turned Cowboys Into ‘Adventure Heroes’

Cattle Herding May Have Been Boring and Demeaning, But It Seemed Like an Antidote to Soul-Killing Industrial Jobs

by Tim Lehman

It is rare to find cowboys on the silver screen who spend much time performing the humdrum labor—herding cattle—that gave their profession its name. Westerns suggest that cowboys are gun-toting men on horseback, riding tall in the saddle, unencumbered by civilization, and, in Teddy Roosevelt’s words, embodying the “hardy and self-reliant” type who possessed the “manly qualities that are invaluable to a nation.”

But real cowboys—who worked long cattle drives in lonely places like Texas—mostly led lives of numbing tedium, usually …

Places

The Long, Violent 1962 Storm That Inspired the Environmental Movement

100 MPH Winds Killed Millions of Trees in the Pacific Northwest, Changing Its Forests Forever

by John Dodge

The Columbus Day Storm of 1962 was the largest, most violent windstorm in the recorded history of the West Coast. Starting on October 12, it swept from Northern California to southern British Columbia over the course of 24 hours, with winds gusting over 100 miles per hour. It killed dozens, injured hundreds more, and damaged or destroyed some 53,000 homes in western Oregon and western Washington.

Fifty years after the storm ripped through the Pacific Northwest, meteorologists still marvel at …