It's the fourth Saturday in July, which means it's the National Day of the Cowboy. It's as good a day as any to re-explain the name of this blog.
These days tally books are associated with the oilfields, but before there was an oil industry, tally books were used by working cowboys.
A buckaroo in the saddle was his employer's eyes and ears on the open range. To ensure that he reported accurately what he saw as he rode, he carried a book of blank pages to make notes in. He would record how many cattle he saw, where he saw them, and what brands they wore. If he saw a calf with one brand following a cow with another, he'd report that too -- and there would be strong words between the owners of the respective brands.
He also took note of range conditions and whatever else he might consider worth knowing about, and this way the boss and the other hands knew of anything that might affect their work and the boss' property.
At roundup time, actual tallies were kept of which cattle wore which brand, as well as what brands were put on unbranded calves. The different brand owners would have representatives present, and each kept careful track of the others' tallies to make sure they all agreed.
When the open range got fenced in, keeping track of the livestock became easier, but the man riding fence still needed to take notice of things. Damage to the barbed wire, for example, might be incidental or it might be sabotage; either way, cattle might be wandering on someone else's range, and that would need to be reported and dealt with.
These days a working cowboy might report his findings by cell phone, if he has any bars, or note them down on his phone or tablet for later retrieval. Some cowboys even carry a laptop in the saddlebag. Picture John Wayne or Clint Eastwood doing that.