What is a Cowboy?

Drawing of WR Benton

WR Benton writes historical novels, western books, fiction novels, non-fictional books.

What is a Cowboy?

Copyright © 2011 By WR Benton

A cowboy is a man who believes in God, country, family, and horse, in that order. He may count only a few men and women as real friends, but those who have proven themselves with the passage of time are true life-long friends. He’s old-fashioned, perhaps, believing in behaviors long past, but he feels the old ways are the best ways. He’s usually a loner, but gets along with crowds, but doesn’t really care for ’em much.

He’s also a straight-shooter, who will answer your question the way he feels you should hear it and not worry about being politically correct. Besides, he couldn’t be politically correct if he wanted to be. He’ll tell you the truth, even if he knows it will hurt you, because you asked. In this, he’s honest to a fault.

He’ll call the baby ugly, even if the child is his own, because he knows deep inside, ugly children need love too and looks matter little in life. He protects and loves all children, along with women, because he sees them as gifts from God. And, may God protect those who would hurt any child, not just his own.

He still opens doors for women and old folks, stands when a woman nears, and touches his hat when passing a woman, because it’s the right thing to do, no matter if other men do or not. His parents taught him to be polite, so he’s never questioned the right or wrong of it. He loves and respects his parents and knows they brought him up “right” in a difficult world. He still calls men “sir” and women “ma’am,” and for the same reason. He deeply loves America, stands, removes his hat, and places his hat over his heart when the flag passes by, and taps makes him cry. While some cowboy’s are veteran’s of America’s wars, some are not, but each feels a love for this country that is as strong as his love for his wife or horse. Let someone attempt to burn an American flag near him and you’ll see his ugly mean side come out quickly.

Cowboy wedding. Photo Serge Taran

He can be profane, but usually isn’t, unless drinking, and while he comes across as a hard man, there is gentle side of him that only his lover and children will see. He knows life is hard and while he faces it with determination and pure guts, he understands he’ll likely break even after all of his efforts. But, there is no quit in him, and with a stubborn attitude he’ll fight anything that bends him the wrong way until death. He may be from Texas, Arizona, or any other state in the Union, because being a true cowboy isn’t limited to a geographical location.

He deeply respects our legal system, police officers, teachers, and members of the church, because they’re mostly honest folks doing hard jobs. While he doesn’t always agree with them, he suspects they’re doing the best they can most of the time. Their job titles alone have earned them his respect and he’ll support them, until he has a real reason not to.

He picks his girlfriends and wife based on love, not looks, color, money, or sex appeal. While he’s often tongue-tied around beautiful women, he enjoys looking at them and dreaming. He knows it takes two to pull a load, but he’ll only add the one he loves to harness. She’ll get a good man that will work from dawn to dusk and never complain of aches, pains, or lack of money. After all, he’s earned both his aches and paycheck honestly.

His word is his bond. If he gives you his word, only the Lord taking him home can cause him to break it. He believes in an honest day’s work for a day’s pay. He’ll do the job right, the first time, or he’ll not do it at all. He takes pride in a job well done, but says little. Pride in a job well done he keeps inside, because no one likes a braggart. He knows he’s honest and thinks most other folks are as well. He can be swindled once but never twice by the same person, because he’s no fool.

While he knows himself as confident and tender at times, he can get barnyard dog ugly mean if protecting others–especially women and children, or weaker individuals. He’ll stay up all night caring for a sick animal, nursing it with loving hands, then never mention it later to his friends. He hates to see any creature in pain and will do what’s needed to end the suffering, often with wet eyes. He hates bullies and takes pride in “takin’ ‘em down a bit.” He’ll die to protect those weaker than him from harm.

Most cowboys see themselves as simple men, living simple lives, but they’re the last true American’s. They are the backbone of this great nation, only they are disappearing with time: replaced by drugstore cowboys, who have never felt the heat of a horse between their legs or the excitement of watching the birth of a calf. These wannabe cowboys have never fired a pistol, picked up a bale of hay, or cried after watching a calf die beside it’s mother. They’ve never cleaned a stall, stretched wire, or worked up a sweat planting a garden. Cowboy clothing does not make a man a cowboy anymore than dancing shoes will make one a dancer. The cowboy doesn’t really know what he is, because he’d never really given it much thought, except it is a way of live with him. A way of life that is lived, as it should be, every second he’s alive.

The smile of a Cowboy. Photo Serge Taran

Cowboys are my heroes and always have been. They are a complex mixture of compassion, honesty, integrity, and bluntness. They’re not the simple folks they project and deep thinking often takes place behind the unblinking eyes. Often they speak little, but listen a lot, because a closed mouth can hear better and learn more.

You’ll never have a better friend or a meaner enemy than an American Cowboy. I know, because most of my friends are cowboys, just like me.

Cowboys Church of Ellis county. Photo by Serge Taran