ask-the-marshallWhy do almost all the Old West characters wear handkerchiefs around their necks in TV shows and movies?

Laurie S. Dell

Brunswick, Maine

The handkerchief was one of the most utilitarian articles a cowboy could have in his possession. It could be used as a mask to filter the dust when riding drag behind the cattle herd. It came in handy as a sling for broken arms or as a tourniquet. It made a good wash rag when needed and could filter dirty water for drinking. It was also great sunburn protection and good for weather all around. (I’ve worn a neckerchief as a mask while on horseback in northern Colorado when the wind chill was about 40 below.) And, if you got tired of working for wages, you could use one to mask your face while robbing a train or bank.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian.

His books include The Arizona Trilogy and Law of the Gun.

If you have a question, write:

Ask the Marshall,

PO Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327

or e-mail him at

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