Monday, May 8, 2017

The Cowboy Culture Is Alive and Kicking

Dear Friends,

Early last year, 2017, I was sent an article that named 11 states where the cowboy culture is "still alive and well" as the article put it. The first thing that caught my eye was when the article use of the term "is still alive and well." It seemed to infer that the it was a surprise to them that the cowboy culture "is alive and well."

But even though that was the case, it was a good article. And yes. as it's no big surprise to anyone out there, I like any positive press pertaining to American cowboys.

The 11 states they list includes Texas, Kansas, Utah, Iowa, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Florida, and Oklahoma. But while they praised those 11 states, they sorrowfully neglected a bunch of other states where the "Cowboy Culture" is also alive and kicking. 

Fact is they included Kansas and South Dakota, but for some unknown reason left out Nebraska which sits between them. Nebraska has a rich cowboy heritage. And yes, Nebraska is only second to Texas as far as beef inventory goes. But frankly, I really don't understand what criteria the publishers of that article were using.

They didn't mention that California is ranked as having the 4th largest inventory of beef cattle in the nation. They also didn't mention Missouri, Iowa, or Wisconsin rank 6th, 7th, and 9th respectfully when it comes to the top ten beef producing states. And yes, as someone ought to have told them, "Where there's beef, there are cowboys."

Of course, the folks who put out that list didn't mention California as a I stated before, but also the other 7 Western states of Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, New Mexico, and Washington. And friends, there are a heck of a lot of great cowhands, as well as folks who just live the cowboy culture, in those states. So how someone left out Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and New Mexico is beyond me. It doesn't make much sense.

And really, they didn't mention Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, or Hawaii. All states where the "Cowboy Culture" is definitely alive and well. Yes, even Hawaii.

If you don't believe me about Hawaii, just go to the Big Island for example and tell the Paniolo there that they don't have a Cowboy Culture going on. They will get really offended real quick. And yes, they may find you a ticket off the island and send you back to where you came from. They may even send you some place that appreciates the rude and the uneducated. Some place like say San Francisco where their idea of a cowboy is something completely opposite of what the rest of America.   

Fact is, the "Cowboy Culture" is alive and well in many states. And while cowboys can be also be found back East and in the South, the vast majority of American cowboys are found throughout all of the states in the Mid-West and West of the Mississippi River.

The American cowboy is the symbolic icon of American Western Culture and dates back to when cattle operations were the largest single segment of American agriculture. And today, more than 1 million beef producers in the United States are responsible for more than 94 million head of beef cattle. Friends, that takes a lot of folks living the cowboy life to accomplish that.

Some only see the Cowboy Culture as being the rodeos when some town's folks dust off their cowboy hat and show up at the rodeo wearing it backwards, which is a pet peeve of mine. Fact is the cowboy culture is the ropings, the pennings, the sorting, the barrel racing, and the cuttings, the pleasure riding, the trail riding, the back country horsemen, Cowboy Action shooters, Old West re-enactors, and a lot of others who do things to keep the Cowboy spirit of the West alive. It is about people living the "Cowboy Way."

The American rancher, the cattle producers, small ranches and big, the horse people, the horse rescue facilities, they're all living the Cowboy way of life that folks talk about. They fight the good fight, put in the long hours, take care of the horses and the livestock. They work to get things done before the weather comes roaring in and puts an immediate halt to everything. 

The Cowboy Culture is more than just working cattlemen and women, or horse people, or farmers. But now, does someone have to have that huge spread or even a horse to live the life of the Cowboy Culture? To my thinking, no!

Sure it includes all of the hard work. The feeding and caring for horses and cattle, the maintaining of one's property both big and small, the work it takes to feed a nation is all part of the Cowboy Culture. But really, the "Cowboy Culture" includes those millions of folks out there who live the "Cowboy Way" of life without ever sitting a horse.

They are those doing what needs to be done for one's family, friends, God, and Country. It is the life, and the freedom. And whether it's on a 200,000 acre cattle ranch or on a 20 acre spread, or a boarding facility sitting on a few acres, or maybe a small piece of Heaven where one has built a place to rescue horses, or maybe some place where a old Cowboy or Cowgirl can get back to his or her roots, it's about living the country lifestyle and being a good steward of the land.

Friends, whether one is a cattle buyer or a welder, a truck driver, or a doctor, a saddle maker, or a history teacher, the point is that the Cowboy Culture is a way of life that's been passed down to those who want to life the code. Let me repeat that, while some think it's only about working cowboys, I don't.

To me the Cowboy Culture is alive and kicking because of those living the Cowboy Code.

It's about American individualism, patriotism, and a "Can do" spirit. It's about getting things done by whatever means necessary, where your handshake is as good as your signature, where friends helps friends and even strangers in need. It's being a good neighbor and loving America not out of personal gain, but because it right to do so.

The Cowboy Culture is not about some bum wannabe who calls himself a cowboy but steals from you when you aren't looking. It's not about someone who takes advantage of someone's generosity or one's Christian ways.

It's polar opposites of lazy university graduates who think they're owed something. It's certainly not about someone who lacks common sense or the ability to do hands on work if need be. It's certainly not about someone who lacks ethics, morals, and sees the world as what's in it for them and wants to screw everyone else. Frankly, I've known some who wore a hat and boots and knew how to rope and ride, but that still didn't make them cowboys.

The Cowboy Culture means living by the code that says we live each day with enthusiasm and courage, that we do what has to be done, that we take pride in our work and finish what we start, keep our promises and live up to our word and commitments.

Our code demands that we ride out the hard times without going over to the wrong side of the line. And while some refuse to accept it, there is a line. Folks living the "Cowboy Way" are tough yet fair with others. We'd never sell our pride and honor no matter what temptation is dangled in front of us.

The Cowboy Culture is standing tall knowing that sometimes one has to be willing to draw the line and back it up. That means always being read to back it up.

 Of course, it means hoping to live with others who see the world the same way. And hopefully, that means camaraderie. And whether it's about horses, spurs, saddles, cattle, rodeo, barrel racing or cuttings, whether it's about other common interests such as hunting, fishing, or building fences and barns, or just about planting gardens and harvesting what you've planted, the Cowboy Culture is an American mindset of individualism and self-reliance. That strength and determination is something that all cowboys and cowgirls know for certain.

Yes indeed, the Cowboy Culture represents the best of America for a reason. It really does represent living in a way that is the best for us. It is a way of living based on resilience, honor, courage, optimism, hard work, and drive. And while that is fact, it's also living in a world with simple basic values such as a belief that everybody has it in their power to do right, be good, speak the truth, and be fair. And yes, abide by God's golden rule to treat others as we ourselves want to be treated.

To some, as I eluded to it earlier, it's a way of going home to their roots after years of toil in other ways of life that never agreed with them. The Cowboy Culture is their return to a life that has always been a part of them. The result is that they're comfortable knowing that they're long journey has brought them home again. Yes, I know exactly how that feels.

That goes to the desire to make things right again. Friends, even if it means rolling up one's sleeves and getting it done, the idea of living in a culture where one is only judged by the content of their character truly lies at the heart of the cowboy way. And frankly, that culture, that Cowboy Culture, is truly alive and kicking in more than just the 11 states out there.

That's just how I see it.

Tom Correa

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