Ah, yes. Cowboys. That famous endeavour of every proud Yorkshireman. Ahem. I suspect there are far more people in Britain who want to be a cowboy than in America, actually. Some mystic allure drawing us to the Wild West. I think my life is as cushty as it’s gonna get. I’m not entirely sure if life as a cowboy would be a great idea or… the worst idea I’ve ever had. And let me tell you, that’s a long list. In fact, I did one of these internet quizzes to see just what role I’d play in the Wild West, to get a feel for my cowboy credentials. I got saloon piano player. I mean, most people would be rather disappointed with that, but I’m delighted with it, really. It begs the question, then, why didn’t I get ‘cowboy’? Admittedly, if you took one look at me, you’d know the answer straight away, but you can’t, so let’s pretend that I am cowboy material and didn’t get saloon piano player…
In the most basic of terms, a cowboy is an animal herder tending to cattle on ranches in North America, often on horseback, whilst also performing a multitude of other jobs on the ranch. The cowboys of old were highly skilled. They could ride, scout, shoot, keep watch, lasso, drive away rustlers, wrangle, round up, herd, cross rivers and sort out stampedes with a click of their fingers. I may be getting that one mixed up with a movie I once saw. Shootouts at high noon were often the order of the day.
We’re talking jean wearing, cowboy hat wearing, boot wearing Wild West heroes. Traditionally, they did ranch work in the winter, plus bog riding and round ups in the spring, whilst in summer they went on the trail rides to the markets. They were far more similar to hippies than you may realise. No, really. They often took the law into their own hands. They relied on naturally occurring materials. They lived in communes. They loved their animals like a lonely redneck loves his pigs. I think I got away with that one… Plus, they used signals to ‘talk’ to one another, such as waving their famous hats. I don’t know what this means, exactly, but my best guesses are that it was a signal that they’d just struck gold, followed by wildly firing guns into the air, or that the hat was on fire…
They were tough, all American hard boys. They endured harsh winters in freezing cold camps. They often faced the peril of being trampled during a stampede, and as for crossing rivers, drowning was a real danger. They faced all kinds of weather, from rain, to snow, to the burning Sun of a summer’s day. Whilst on guard duty, they had to stay awake all night long, and then they had to deal with the dust, too. They were often attacked by indigenous tribes, too, and rustlers. And, the worst of the worst, they had to deal with the saloon piano player copping off with his missus. Ahem.
Of course, cowboys aren’t like this anymore, are they? Well, they still look after their cattle, roaming the land on horseback. Death remains an ever-constant threat. Deaths from storms and stampedes remain common. They still deal with soaring temperatures in the summer, and often get caught in extreme downpours during the winter. They still lasso and herd the animals. They travel immense distances. And, other than tagging their animals, they’ve staved off the modern world in favour of a traditional livelihood rather well. This is still the quintessential symbol of masculinity… but the cowgirls are more than a match for them, must be said.
Yes, the Wild West is still very much alive.
Whilst the olden days are gone and the shootouts at dawn are a thing of the past, there remains something rather beautiful about the cowboy way of life. There is something wonderfully old-fashioned about them and the way they do things. But would I be one? I mean, I hate horses, for a start. I don’t like being up after 10, or getting up before 10. I’m not overly masculine. I don’t like the heat but I’m okay with the cold. I’ve never fired a gun nor do I have any intention to do so. I hate the thought of someone attacking me… in fact, last time that happened I was upset for a good week after, and all he did was push me slightly. And I really don’t think I’d suit the outfit, although I am willing to give the cowboy hat a go. I think I’m better off admiring the cowboys and cowgirls from afar, because if I was all there was standing between the rustlers and the old west town, trust me on this, a lot of good people are going to die a horrible, horrible death…
So no, I would not be a cowboy, but I am rather smitten with the idea of being a saloon piano player…
But would you be a cowboy or a cowgirl, readers?
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