Richard W. Slatta's The Cowboy Encyclopedia comments, "On the trail, canned tomatoes helped to quench thirst. Philip Ashton Rollins notes that acidic tomato juice counteracted the ill effects of alkali dust inhaled by men on the trail. Even the greenest cook could whip up a batch of 'pooch,' stewed tomatoes mixed with bread and sugar." The Culinary Arts Museum site notes, "Canned foods were sometimes carried on chuck wagons during cattle drives. On fancier wagons, canned tomatoes were considered the 'greatest prize of all.' Sometimes, cowboys carried cans of tomatoes while on the range to cut their thirst. It can be argued that tomato juice certainly tasted better than water from wagon barrels that often was alkaline and 'wiggling with wildlife.'"
Well, S. Omar Barker, all-time king of the cowboy poets, was NOT silent on the matter. Here, from his 1954 collection "Songs Of The Saddlemen," is a poetic tribute to:
by Squire Omar Barker
Mr. and Mrs. Omar Barker (circa the 1950s)Them old time western cowboys mostly ate what they could git,
And drank what turned up handy, but I've heard them all admit
They sometimes got so tired of beans, of beef and even 'taters,
They'd purt near swap their saddles for a bait of canned termaters.
About the only stuff in cans them days was pork and beans,
Terrmaters, Eagle milk, and corn, and maybe some sardines;
And none of these was plentiful out where the cow trails ran,
For grub come mighty costly when you bought it in the can.
But sometimes in the wagon bed of big ranch operators
You'd find maybe a case or two of stuff called canned termaters.
Them old time cowhands never heard of vitamins an' such;
They never craved no fancy foods--at least not very much--
But, comin' in from cow-work where the dust was thick and hot,
Them juicy, cool termaters--well, they sure did hit the sport.
You even liked them better than you did dried apply pie,
And, when your outfit furnished them, you sure was livin' high.
Why, even when you et in town, you shocked them restrunt waiters
By turnin' fancy vittles down and eatin' canned termaters!
A-batchin' in the boars-nest, as the line camps then was called,
You often tired of cookin', and your appetite got stalled,
But if up there upon the shelf some canned termaters stood,
You'd "cut a can" for supper, and it sure did savor good.
Some days inside your slicker you would pack a can or two
Tied on behind your saddle. If the water holes was few
You'd "cut a can" and drink it as you jogged along the road,
And swear that canned termaters was the best fruit ever growed.
In town, the morning after you had helped the owl to hoot,
Your tongue would taste like leather from the top of some old boot,
Until you found a grocer that would trust you for a can,
And when you'd cut and drunk it, you was sure a diff'rent man.
That's how them oldsters tell it of the days when life was rough,
When ridin' men was rawhide men, and nothin' else but tough;
When men with hides and stummicks like on ol' bull alligator's,
Was still like kids for candy--when it come to canned termaters.