Long before a Tom Cruise character or any rogue politician tried to lay claim to it, the word “maverick” belonged to someone — and some thing — else. That someone was a Texan named Samuel Augustus Maverick whose bio reads a little like Doc Holliday’s.
And that some ‘thing’ was any of the roughly 300 head of cattle Maverick won in a poker game. After winning the cattle, legend goes, Maverick boldly refused to brand the cattle believing it to be inhumane. At a time when machismo was everything, when calling someone a liar could get either the accuser or accused shot (or both), and when animal rights weren’t exactly in the public eye, Maverick’s bucking of convention took Texas-sized cojones. So much so that Maverick’s fellow ranchers referred to his cattle as “mavericks” out of respect.
Though it can’t be tied to Samuel Maverick’s actions, cattle branding slowly waned and as unbranded cattle became more common, the term maverick stuck. Today, meaning “independent minded,” the term lives on in the English lexicon.
So the next time you hear a not-so-independent-minded politician seize on the word, stop and remember its origin. Samuel Maverick — lawyer, politician, land baron, signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence — and his 300 head of cattle. Maverick through and through.