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This is from a song by Garth Brooks called The Cowboy Song:

Pushing horns weren't easy like the movie said it was
And I don't recall no dance hall girls
Or hotel rooms with rugs
You worked hot and tired and nasty
Rode your pony's head too low
There were all the nights you couldn't sleep
'Cause it was too damn cold
And you'd sing "Strawberry Roan" and "Little Joe"

Can anybody tell me what "pushing horns" refers to, and possibly the name of the movie in question as well?

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    Pushing horns means driving cattle. – StoneyB Jan 31 '14 at 17:55
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    The movie is probably just any generic Hollywood Western glamorization of the old West. – Oldcat Jan 31 '14 at 18:14
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    @StoneyB Yes. But more specifically, it refers to driving Texas Longhorn cattle. – Elliott Frisch Jan 31 '14 at 18:15
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I don't know if I can source this but pushing horns but my sense as a speaker of American English is that this means moving cattle around, i.e., being a cattle rancher.

  • Thanks! Yes, that must be it. @StoneyB also thinks the same. – Maggie Jan 31 '14 at 17:59
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I believe virmaior and the various commenters are correct. This is referring to what a cowboy used to do on a cattle drive to move the herds around.

As a resident of the same metropolis as Mr. Brooks (Greater Tulsa, OK), and a person who has in fact worked cattle in the area, I can also say that I'd never heard that term for it before. Its not a common term we use for working cattle. I wouldn't be shocked if the author hadn't made it up himself.

Note that cattle drives mostly ended with the end of the open range around the beginning of the 20th Century. Today cattle herds are contained year round on their own ranches. They occasionally have to be rounded up for shots and er... creating steers from the new calfs, but they almost never need to be driven serious distances from horseback anymore. So this was probably written from the point of view of a person who would not be alive today.

  • Oh, and to take Mr. Brooks' effort at de-glamorization a bit further, I'd like to point out that rather a large proportion (probably the majority) of the cowboys on these drives would also have been either black or Indian. You don't see that in Hollywood movies either, or in a lot of neo-cowboy songs. – T.E.D. Jan 31 '14 at 20:22
  • Mr Brooks didn't write the song. Roy Robinson of Comanche, TX did. – Elliott Frisch Jan 31 '14 at 20:25
  • @ElliottFrisch - Interesting. So apparently its from a central Texan in the late 1980s. That may explain the (to me) weird lingo, I suppose. However, the phrase still somehow feels way too modern for someone on an actual cattle drive. It sounds much more like trucker lingo. I can at least vouch that we weren't using it for working cattle up in Tulsa at about the same time. – T.E.D. Jan 31 '14 at 20:34
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    @ElliottFrisch - Well now, I didn't spend much time in that exact part of Texas in the mid 80's, but I did pass through the panhandle a time or two, and they did in fact still have what looked to my non-FFA eyes to be longhorn cattle there. I don't ever remember seeing any in Oklahoma though. My Grandfather's herd was all Angus and Herford. – T.E.D. Jan 31 '14 at 20:41
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    I only meant it is a heritage breed. – Elliott Frisch Jan 31 '14 at 20:45
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Perhaps an otherwise alternative, calves (thru year-lings) are literally growing out "hornbuds" emitting from their skulls. An equiv. might also be a "Greenhorn." That would give the writer a ponderance of his/her youth.

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