Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:
We answer a question about cowboys ...
Play music by the Pine Leaf Boys ...
And tell about a new kind of cat.
Have you ever seen a tiger and wished you could have one as a pet? Well, the largest member of the cat family now comes in a smaller version. American cat breeders have worked for years to develop the toyger. This new kind of house cat looks just like a toy tiger. Faith Lapidus has more.
A professional breeder named Judy Sugden developed the toyger cat by selecting and mating other cats. Toygers are large-boned cats with orange-gold colored fur and black markings. A perfect toyger also has small rounded ears and a white stomach. A toyger is usually a very playful and intelligent pet that behaves more like a dog than a cat.
Miz Sugden’s mother is a cat breeder as well. Jean Mill studied genetics in college and put her skills to work in creating the Bengal cat. This cat looks just like a small leopard. Judy Sugden decided that she would create a tiger look-alike to go with her mother’s leopard breed cat.
To do this, she mated a Bengal cat with a tabby cat that had special marks on its fur. Over many years she worked to mate cats that had the size and appearance that she was looking for. In two thousand, the International Cat Association accepted the toyger as a new breed of cat.
Over time, toyger breeders may try to change the current appearance of the cat. They may work to bring out qualities such as its round ears and a straighter nose.
But owning this small cat can come at a high price. Baby cats that have the right qualities to be prize-winning toygers can cost thousands of dollars. Kittens that are sold just to be pets can still cost from five hundred to one thousand dollars.
Also, purebred cats often have genetic health problems. And some animal doctors question the morality of creating new cat species. Many homeless cats are put to death in animal shelters because of overpopulation.
Still, it is hard not to like these energetic and beautiful toyger cats. Judy Sugden says that in breeding toygers she is helping to save the spirit of wild tigers. These larger cats may be disappearing from the wild. But it is still possible to have a smaller version to play with at home.
Our VOA listener question this week comes from Pakistan. Tayyab Ajmal asks about the American cowboy.
History experts say the traditional American cowboy became important after the American Civil War in the eighteen sixties. People who owned cattle ranches hired these men to control large groups of cattle over large areas of land. For twenty years, thousands of cowboys drove millions of longhorn cattle from Texas to the new railroads in Kansas and Colorado.
Experts say that men came from all over the United States to work as cowboys in the West. Cowboys were excellent horse riders. They trained wild horses. They used rope to catch and tie runaway animals. The work that cowboys did was difficult and dangerous. The pay was low. And their lives were lonely. Cowboys were brave and independent. They wore special clothing for the needs of the job. The cowboy became the symbol of the American West.
After about nineteen hundred, the need for cowboys decreased. Many books, movies and television shows continued to tell stories about cowboy heroes.
The rodeo was invented to prevent the cowboy lifestyle from disappearing. Rodeos today include most of the same skills used by cowboys one hundred years ago. These include riding wild horses and bulls. Pulling steers to the ground by their horns. And using ropes to catch and tie the legs of a cow.
Cowgirls also take part in rodeo competitions. One event for women is called barrel racing. The cowgirl must ride her horse around each of three large containers, then ride back to the starting area.
The winners of these rodeo events receive money as prizes. Rodeos are big business, earning hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Some take place in large indoor centers. Many of the rodeo performers are professional rodeo cowboys. They may enter as many as one hundred or more rodeos a year to earn a living. They travel from one rodeo to another to take part in a dangerous sport.
A cowboy can earn thousands of dollars for an eight-second ride on a wild horse. Or he might break his neck.
The Pine Leaf Boys
The Pine Leaf Boys are five musicians who are bringing new energy and life to the old traditions of Cajun and Creole music. These young men live in the southern state of Louisiana. Their skillful performances and deep love of music shine in their two albums. Barbara Klein has more.
Cajun music is the sound invented by French people who settled in southern Louisiana in the eighteenth century. Many of these traditional songs are in a version of French spoken in Louisiana. The Pine Leaf Boys all grew up listening to this music. Here is the fast beat of the "Pine Leaf Boy Two-Step." It is sure to make you want to start dancing.
Wilson Savoy is one of the band's members. He sings and plays the fiddle and accordion. Wilson grew up in a family with a rich musical history. His father, Marc Savoy, is well known across America for his finely made button accordion music instruments. His mother, Ann Savoy, sings and plays the guitar. She recently released the album "Adieu False Heart" which we told about in a story last September.
Wilson says that one reason Cajun music has survived is because it is dance music. He says Cajuns need to go out dancing and have a good time. Here is "La Belle Josette" sung by Cedric Watson.
The Pine Leaf Boys perform often in Louisiana and all around the United States. Wilson Savoy says that if they were not performing on stage they would be at home playing for themselves and their friends. This summer they will perform in England and France.
Their performances are filled with great energy. It is not unusual for them to trade instruments in the middle of a concert. We leave you with "Ma Petite Femme" from their newest album "Blues de Musicien."
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.
It was written by Dana Demange and Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was the producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.