How did cowboys live in the west?

The real cowboys hardly lived the adventurous, gun-slinging lives portrayed in old Hollywood movies. They were ranch-hands, usually poorly paid and employed to manage and move the herds of the ranch owner. They had to make long travels with herds to take them to the slaughterhouses of the big cities, suffering rain and dust storms, the occasional herd stampedes that might kill or injure them, the chasing after cattle gone astray and at night camping and feeding under less tranquil circumstances than usually seen in movies. Heavy drinking often filled their spare time. It was not the kind of life you could lead until your old age; many - if not simply fired at some point - ended working on the ranch itself, repairing fences, branding calves etcetera.