Cattle were brought to early Dodge City by a bunch of rough and wild young men who created chaos in town. But that didn't mean the drive itself was wild and unorganized.
Everyone in a group herding cattle had a role to play.
The "cook" went ahead with the chuck wagon so he could set up and have a meal cooked for the cowboys, who were led by the "trail boss." One-third of the way behind the boss and to the leading sides of the herd rode the "points."
"Swings" rode two-thirds of the way back on each side with a "flank" just behind each of them. About three "drags" brought up the dirty and dusty rear.
All these cowboys rode as many as three horses a day.
The horses not being ridden at a given time were grouped along with the "wrangler" in a "remuda" which was to one side of the herd just behind one of the points.
With one cook, a trail boss, a wrangler, two points, swings and flanks each, and three drags; at least a dozen personnel were required to drive a herd of 3,000 to 3,500 cattle from Texas. Larger herds required up to 18 cowboys.
Like the captain of a ship, the trail boss was in charge of the entire operation. He had to get documentation from each owner noting the owners earmarks and brands.
Then all cattle got the same "road brand" regardless of owner. The trail boss often rode ahead to scout the route and to a find suitable place to bed down for the night.
The boss picked one dominant steer to lead the other cattle on the drive. Usually this one steer was considered a valuable commodity and was used on multiple drives.
The "El Capitan" statue at 2nd Avenue and Wyatt Earp Boulevard commemorates this lead steer.
The cook ranked second in command just behind the trail boss and often served as barber, dentist, and banker.
On his chuck wagon, he carried non-perishable items such as beans, salted meats, coffee, onions, potatoes, lard, and flour to make biscuits.
Obviously, there was always plenty of beef which the cook knew how to prepare in numerous ways.
The cook also supplemented the cowboys' diet with game and plants found along the trail.
The name "chuck" in chuck wagon either came from a slang term for food or from its inventor, famous trail man Charles Goodnight, who pioneered the Goodnight-Loving Trail from Texas to Fort Sumner, New Mexico in 1866.
Before that time, each cowboy had to supply and carry his own food.
The points, swings and flanks were chosen from the best riders in the crew. They constantly worked to keep the herd together, always on the lookout for stray or errant cattle.
Many cowboys started out in the wrangler position. The young cowboy was charged with containing all the horses safely in the remuda (especially at night) and keeping track of which horses belonged to each cowboy.
The least coveted positions went to the drags who ensured the weaker cattle at the rear kept up with the herd. The drags had to "eat the dust" from the entire herd and riders ahead of them.