There were several big ranches around home, and they usually turned their cattle out for long periods. From time to time, roundups would be needed to brand calves, give shots, worm the herd, or get ready for market. We didn't really brand the calves - we put a tag in their ear - but branding sounds a lot cooler. Not only that, it was a good chance to get out of school for a few days.
When roundup time was approaching, the ranches would pass the word, put notices up in the feed store and the saloon, and pretty soon they'd have a mess of cowboys. The pay wasn't much, I seem to remember $10 a day and feed.
One thing you had to have to get on was your own tack - saddle, bridle, lariat, latigo, chaps, that kind of thing. We already had decent hats, boots, etc.
The way a roundup generally worked was the ranch usually turned out the remuda (the horses from which ranch hands select their mounts) with the herd and just kept a few barn horses. The first cowboys to get hired would round up the remuda, corral them, and everybody who came along would have to ride one down to work off. These really weren't wild horses, they just hadn't been ridden in a while and didn't much like the idea at first. Some would gentle down right quick, others took a good bronc-stompin' to bring them around. This, of course, was the fun part. We all got to use real cowboy skills to do our jobs.
Usually, we could go home at night if we lived close enough, but sometimes, on a big ranch a ways from home, we'd stay in the bunkhouse or occasionally, a line shack. The food was pretty good if you liked beef and beans. We learned things from the older hands like how to roll Bull Durham, drink cheap whiskey, puke, don't squat on yer spurs - important cowboy stuff like that.
Almost every year, a new guy would show up. Other than the fact that none of us knew him, he was easy to spot. When most of us were driving 15- or 20-year old pickups, he would be sporting a new, or nearly new, four-wheel drive. (Most of us figured that four-wheel drive was just two more wheels to get stuck!)
Add new jeans, new saddle (my cousin still had an old McClellan saddle), new hat, etc. When it came to horses, they usually didn't know which end the feed went in and the fertilizer came out!
Most of 'em sorted away pretty quick, partly 'cause we sandbagged 'em pretty bad. The best part was getting the new guy successfully mounted on a horse. Naturally, we would “help” the new guy. First thing was to get the meanest, orneriest, kicking, biting range horse we could, snubbed up short to a post, put a bandana over his eyes and saddle him up. Next problem was getting our drug-store cowboys mounted up. By this time, they usually figured out that these critters weren't quite like the ones in the petting zoo.
Sometimes they'd quit right then, telling us what their dad was going to do to us, and that was the end of the story, but most times, we'd shame them into getting aboard. The routine went like this: Get him sittin' high-and-tight, pull the bandana, pull the snub rope, and holler like a bunch of wild Indians. Talk about a major e-ticket ride! Most of the time, the ol' range bronc would have him off in a jump or two. Sometimes, they'd ride 'em down. Most of the time, we'd end up picking the kid up with a “what happened?” look. Then we'd find out what they were made of: If they drug up and quit, oh well. If they managed to cowboy up and get back on, we figured that they probably had enough cajones to do the job and help out if any of us got in a bind. It all sounds a little tough, but it actually worked pretty well, weeding out the hands from the “all-hat-and-no-cattle” bunch.
Times have changed now, and I haven't stomped a bronc in a while - 'cause I figured out that these old bones break easy and heal slow, but it was a good ride while it lasted!