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American life    .

Modern Cowboys

 A short text in intermediate level English .

Cowboys all lived in the 19th century, when the Wild West really was wild. There are no cowboys in the USA in the 21st century. Right ?  No, wrong !  Even today, there are still men and women who work as cowboys and cowgirls in the western USA and in Canada.... and in South America too !
Cowboy at work
A cowboy at work in the American West
        Are there still cowboys in the American West?
    The answer is certainly yes! There are still thousands of cowboys in the American west. They still ride horses, and they still carry guns; but they don't spend their time fighting Indians.
    Although they often travel on four wheels, not four legs, cowboys still have to be expert horsemen too. They ride horses very regularly.
    Some of the ranches in the American West cover thousands of hectares. Cattle are often free to move over large areas. There are steep hills, rivers and streams, forests and rocks. In many places, it is impossible to use a pick-up, even with four-wheel drive; even  motorbikes are useless. The only ways to cross the prairies are on horseback, or on foot; and you can't chase cattle on foot!
    Cowboys are working men; they look after the herds of cattle that live on the prairies in the mountains, from Texas to Canada. They have lots of jobs to do; they have to mark cattle so that they can be identified; they have to move cattle from place to place; they have to vaccinate them, and check that they are healthy. They also have to inspect miles and miles of fences and barbed-wire barriers.
    There is no shortage of people who want to be cowboys. The profession has a very special reputation; it is different from other jobs, but it can be hard work, with long hours. Besides, many cowboys are not very well paid. It can also be a dangerous job.
    Cowboys do not often fall off their horses, of course! They have to be excellent riders; but they carry guns for two reasons. Firstly, they may have to kill an injured animal - a cow or even a horse; secondly, they may encounter dangerous wild animals, such as rattle snakes. There are bears and wolves too, but they do not usually attack humans. Nevertheless, it is useful to have a gun, just in case.....


    In the 19th century, cowboys used to drive cattle for hundreds of miles. Sometimes they had to take them to new destinations; sometimes they had to take them to market. Today, there are no more long cattle drives. These days, cattle are picked up in big trucks and taken to new destinations by road.
    That is one thing that has changed. Another more modern idea is the "dude ranch".
    Anyone who wants to can become a cowboy for a week or more, if he has the money. Dude ranches offer holidays to people who want to be part-time cowboys! Of course, dudes don't do much real work, but they enjoy the spirit of the west.


Word guide
area: zone - pick-up: small truck - chase: follow - cattle: cows and bulls - look after: be responsible for - herd: large group - healthy: in good form - fence: wooden barrier - shortage: absence, not enough - snake: serpent - dude: city man 

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Student Worksheet

Before writing this article, our reporter talked with a real cowboy in the Wild West of . Here are some of the questions that she asked; Imagine how the cowboy answered them.  
Interactive exercise - Write your answers into the boxes, adding at least six words

Do you always work on horseback these days ?
No .......................................
And what have you done today ?
We've .......................................
Did you do the same yesterday ?
No, we .......................................
I see that you're carrying a gun. Is that really necessary ?
Oh yes, if .......................................
Is it a good job being a cowboy in the 21st century ?
Well, .......................................
And could I become a cowboy too, For a week, maybe ?
Sure ! .......................................  

For Teachers

Vocabulary: Can pupils find the opposites of these words, as they read through the article? The answers are given below: some of the opposites will certainly not be in your pupils' active vocabulary; they will need to search for them.

Find the opposites of: not yet / rarely / hardly ever / small / useful / sick / abundance / the same as / easy / safe / very poor / useless / departure points /

Answers: still / often / often or very regularly / large / useless / healthy / shortage / different from / hard / dangerous / excellent / useful / destinations /
    Pay attention  in particular to different from and useful (-ful is always spelt with one "l" as a suffix, not two.)

Reading for information:
Have pupils divide a sheet of paper into two columns, then, on the left, note the points that they would like about life as a cowboy, on the right those that they would not like.

Written exercises:
1. Interview exercise. This exercise is now interactive. If you use a connected whiteboard/projector, project the dialogue onto the whiteboard or screen, and ask pupils to suggest answers, which you can type in for immediate display and then comment/correct. If your classroom uses individual connected computers, each student can fill in his/her answers which can be corrected individually.

2.Here are some things that a cowboy would use,  not all of them mentioned in the article: have pupils write down a sentence, saying why each is important. Sentences should exploit the structure so that....

horse / gun / ranch / fences / pick-up / vaccination / truck / lasso / corral.
For example:
    A cowboy needs a horse, so that he can travel across the prairie.
    Cowboys need fences, so that their cattle cannot walk on big roads.

This teaching resource is © copyright Linguapress 1995 renewed 2021.
Fully revised and extended 2021 . Originally published in Horizon, the Low-intermediate level English newsmagazine.
Republication on other websites or in print is not authorised

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Intermediate level EFL resource
Level -  lIntermediate.
IELTS Level :  5 - 6
Flesch-Kincaid  scores
Reading ease level:
77 - Fairly easy
Grade level: 6

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