Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On Cowboys

Whenever I read that someone said something about how there are no more cowboys, it really pisses me off.

It's like me saying there are no more trains.

"But FarmGirl," I hear you say, "The bygone days of riding the range all week and carousing in the saloon all weekend are gone."

True. So is the steam engine, but saying there are no more cowboys because the days of bringing the stock in in a blizzard on horseback are over is like saying there are no more trains because the coal shovelers are out of work.

Cowboys live. They walk amongst us (ok maybe not you) every day. And I'm not talking about the buffed, polished, and shined rodeo boys you see on TV either, although they have their own place in the Cowboy Lexicon.

I'm talking about real cowboys. Stay up all night to nurse a sick calf, cry when his horse gets snake bit, hat wearing, spur jangling cowboys. Men who go out there every day and do a tough damn job for very little thanks or pay.

Men who are, in large part, responsible for your steak making it all the way to your plate.

They're still riding horses, checking fences, sweating and freezing and praying to get their herd through the winter. Sometimes they use the truck or an ATV instead of their trusty old pony, but when it counts, they'll fall back on that four legged partner because two brains are often better than one.

Sometimes they wear ballcaps instead of cowboy hats, but god help you if you touch either one without permission.

They still strap on guns when they leave the house, and usually carry a rifle, in case they run across a coyote. The gun may be a semi-auto and the rifle probably isn't the stereotypical .30-30, but they've got em.

Their jeans are perpetually faded, stained, torn, and frayed at the hem, except for one or two pairs that only get worn for special occasions, like dates or weddings.

They use computers to track their breeding herd and they check the market report on their cell phones, but they're still cowboys.

A cowboy isn't in the costume, and it isn't in the past. What makes a cowboy comes from an abiding love of the land, their critters, and their families. They're often wild, and sometimes they do dumb things, but they're not stupid, and they're a lot of fun.

They're never too tired to help out a neighbor, or a friend.

Cowboys live amongst us today and while they may look different, at the core, they're just the same as those men who rode the lonesome prairie a hundred years ago. They still retain a bit of the romance that their fore bearers are painted with, it's just usually covered in a layer of grime, and you have to look a little deeper.

And anyone who can't see, and respect, the code that those men live by, I feel sorry for. My life is richer for knowing them, their examples have made me a better person.

The world would be a sadder place without them.