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Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor;


Chaps or… ‘er … Shaps  

Humor by Vic Anderson, Estes Park, CO


November 2013 issue  


[Here is a re-run of a classic RMR story. It first ran in the Nov/Dec 1996 issue.]


Chaps - Humor by Vic Anderson


      I keep hearing people on T.V. talking about chaps (“chăps”). They then go on to say something about rodeo or cowboys. That’s when I realize they’re not talking about England .

      When I was about seven, I got my first chaps (“shăps”). They were angoras. They were wonderful. My dad said I was to use these chaps (shăps) to keep my legs warm. You’ll notice he pronounced it chaps (shăps).

      I called them chaps (shăps) and all of the people at the rodeos and the ranches that I was ever around called them chaps (shăps). Not chaps (chăps). But I continually hear people on television and radio call them chaps (chăps). So I looked it up.


The word is derived from the Spanish word chaparajos (sha pä ra’ hos) or (rä hos): leather overalls, usually open in the back, worn especially by cowboys as protection for the legs. Also chappararras; also chaps (shăps), colloq.


      After reading that, I came to the conclusion that the word needed further explanation.

      If you wear them as protection or as part of your costume while riding a horse, they are chaps (shăps).

      If all of your friends are English and they are male, they are chaps (chăps).

      The word chap (chăp) implies to me a fellow with a bumbershoot (umbrellä) under his arm and a bowler (the hat) on his head. You know—little round brim and little round crown. Always black. Not some guy from Detroit drinking beer and rolling a big black ball down a long skinny hardwood hall at ten white pins. I mean the bowler hat. This is very proper dress for a chap (chăp). He generally has one half of his eye glasses hanging on a string or ribbon and a swallow-tailed coat. He says things like, “Sticky wicket wot!” “Cheerio!” and “I say!” …a lot. Probably knows about cricket and butling, but doesn’t seem to know a lot about cows or rodeo and probably wouldn’t make a hand.


      Chaps (shăps), on the other hand, are pretty handy and there are several kinds. Take bat-winged chaps (shăps). It’s obvious by their shape that wing should be part of their name. I don’t know if I would have used “bat.” I would have used “hawk” or “eagle” or something more dashing and daring. After all, a bat flies around at night, can’t see well, and eats bugs. Of course, the way the movies and television have cowboys dying all over the place, somebody might have picked the name “buzzard-winged” chaps (shăps), and I think I prefer “bat” to “buzzard.”

      As I mentioned, my first chaps (shăps) were Angoras. ...My dad had some sheep, Ramboulet and Columbias , but I had never heard of an Angora . I was sure, however, that it was something even more thrilling than just a horse or cow!


      Boy, then I found out it was a GOAT! At least I could get some solace in the fact that it was dead and gave up its life to help me stay warm.

      There are shotgun chaps (shăps). They look just like their name implies, the barrels of a shotgun. ...I wonder, if you are a really short cowboy and wear shotgun chaps (shăps), would they be called sawed-off shotgun chaps (shăps) and would they be legal?


      Chaps (chăps) are what you get when your new boot tops are of a different height than what you are used to. You get chaps (chăps), one on each side of each ankle, for a total of four chaps (chăps).

      Or, if you have been out in the wind and sun, your lips might get chapped (chăpped). Then you lick them and they just get worse. You women wear lipstick and don’t have to worry so much about it, but we men do. Oh, we could use Chap (chăp) Stick, but it’s usually rolling around on the floor of our pickup without a cap on it. It’s usually floorboard brown rather than pink, so we just keep on licking our lips and they keep getting sorer.


      I was told by my dad that the best way to fix chapped (chăpped) lips was to put fresh cow manure on them. It won’t make your lips feel any better, but you’ll damned sure quit licking them!

      If you’re a bronc rider and your bronc won’t buck, you’ll have somebody throw his chaps (shăps) at the horse’s feet. This is known as chapping (shăpping) a bronc.…

      While riding that bronc in perfect rhythm, you are tapped (tăpped) off. When you support a sore knee, it is taped (tāped) off. To make it easier to ride that bronc, you use rosin on your saddle swells and your chaps (shăps). This helps make your chaps (shăps) stick, not to be confused with Chap (chăp) Stick that you use to prevent lip chap (chăp).

      After riding that bronc in perfect rhythm, you will probably want to celebrate by taking your girlfriend out on a date. To prepare for the date, you will probably shave (shāv). Unless your girl stands you up, in which case you have gotten the shavs (shăvs), which is more that one shaft (shăft).


      After shaving (shāving), it’s best if you use some kind of aftershave (shāv) to keep your face from chafing (chāfing). Otherwise, it might feel as if you got into oat chaff (chăf), which is the dust from the oat head and shaft (shăft). An aftershave (shāv) called Chaps (shăps), a fine Western name, is available. Unless the salesperson calls it Chaps (chăps), in which case you will smell like one of those English chaps (chăps). This aftershave (shāv) comes in bottles of many sizes and shapes (shāps) all with chaps (shăps) embossed on them.

      So, to recap:

      After you get your knees taped (tāped) and don your chaps (shăps), you have your horse chapped (shăpped) so you can get tapped (tăpped) off. Then you shave (shāv) using Chaps (shăps) so you can smell like a cowboy and not a chap (chăp), and so you can keep from getting chaffed (chāffed) as if from chaff (chăf).

      You may also used Chap (chăp) Stick to keep your lips from chapping (chăpping), so you can kiss your girl …unless you got the shavs (shăvs) from being stood up. In that case, go out, get drunk and howl at the moon like a coyote (kiýot or kiyote) up a creek (krĭk or krēk) …but that’s another story.


Vic Anderson, singer–songwriter of Estes Park , Colorado , is a three-time yodeling champion, and a world-class whistler, who presents his programs throughout the United States at cowboy poetry gatherings, Western music festivals, and many other events. For more information, visit



Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor;

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