Behind these rustic facades lurked a world of sin and temptation for cowboys just paid off after a long drive from Texas.

Longhorn cattle were so plentiful in south Texas that they weren’t worth a plug nickel locally. If you could get them up to the railheads in Kansas, where they could be shipped north and east, they were worth a small fortune. And so the trail driver, the classic cowboy, was born.

He was the guy who drove the longhorns north, took his wages and usually blew them in the notorious cow towns. His rowdy ways led also to the emergence of the legendary marshals who worked the cow towns, men like Wyatt Earp, who gained his reputation as a shootist, a gunslinger, wrangling high-spirited trail drivers in Kansas.

The era of the epic trail drives was brief, lasting less than 20 years — it ended when the railroads finally pushed their lines south into Texas cattle country — but it gave rise to an American mythology that is still with us today.

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