American Cowboy Story
Growing up, I loved to hear my granddads and uncles spin their yarns of yesteryear. There is something extraordinary, even magical, about a cowboy story. It has the power to pull the listener into a realm of dust, danger, and dreams. I’ve always had a flare for the telling of a story and I learned the poetry and art of storytelling from some of the best that the world has never heard of.
For those that have never meet a cowboy or understand the man beneath the hat, roll that log over to my campfire and let me tell you about those that have the wherewithal to be a cowboy. This is my cowboy story about what the makeup of a cowboy is.
My heroes didn’t wear spandex tights or wear capes, my heroes were cowboys. Even as a somewhat dimwitted kid growing up in Colorado, I knew that cowboys were a special breed. Their Wranglers and Levies stood the test time of time as they rode upon well-worn cowboy boots. More likely than not cowboys wore beat-to-hell and dusty hats that looked as if their days of shedding water had long passed. Cowboy’s clothes don’t shine nor are they pretty – they are practical.
When you look upon a cowboy you see the hat, boots, and jeans. What you do not see is the lone wolf that rests within his soul. The cowboy loves people, but to his core he is the essential loner. He knows it is better to ride alone in the right direction than to follow the herd in the wrong direction. When a cowboy is born it is part of the makeup to be relentless in his loneliness, they never quit moving forward, and no matter how much it hurts them – they never look back.
Now the cowboy is about American – as American can get. His biggest assets or sometimes his flaws is his patriotism and loyalty. The cowboy bleeds red, white, and blue. It is ingrained in the cowboy that all that stand behind him he must protect. “All that stand by his side he will respect. And anyway that stands in his way will be defeated.” The cowboy who rides alone is your most deadly adversary. If you want your butt whooped just insult a cowboy’s country, flag, girl, mother, kids, horse, or dog. And if he can’t whoop you, his father can.
Money and material things mean nothing to those that ride the forever blue and burnt orange horizons from sunup to sundown. Cowboys wander and meander through life with little cash or coin in their pockets. Just like the music says, “They rather give you a song than diamonds or gold.” Their wealth cannot not be counted or deposited into a bank. A cowboy’s fortune is paid in the things that matter most to them. Family, dogs, horses, dusty vistas, forever snow above timberline, and of course pigtailed girls in tight-fitting jeans.
The songs that tell the cowboy story belong to country music. The cowboy knows that not everyone likes his type of music, but he is okay in knowing this since not everyone has good taste. He loves to crank up his country music loud enough to drown out the sound of you complaining about it. The cowboy knows that any bad day is remedied by driving country roads with the widows rolled down and the volume pegged out. I think the outlaw Waylon Jennings said it the best, “I think country music isn’t the guitar, it isn’t a banjo, it isn’t the melody, and it isn’t a lyric. It is a feeling.”
You cannot love the iconic cowboy without loving horses. One of the cowboy’s best friend is the one that never speaks to them. In this unique relationship the cowboy is always searching for himself, but his horse already knows who he is. Although the cowboy knows not himself he understands the horse is poetry in motion and that my friend speaks volumes for the cowboy himself. The cowboy understands his horse couldn’t care less on how much he knows until the horse understands how much the cowboy cares—so the cowboy loves his horse with all that his heart can muster. One day in the cowboy’s life while riding his horse in the cool mist of a late autumn morning he will have a coming to Jesus moment. He will realize that God made the horse from a gust of a cold northern wind, wings of an angel, dirt from prairie vistas, and a few stones from the grandeur views above timberline. He knows when he is squared away in the saddle on top of his horse he has the best seat in the world.
Now this could not be a cowboy story without mentioning the cowboy’s dog. He understands that all the best people have four legs and that his dog is the reflection of his own soul. The cowboy appreciates that his dog is the only one that understands his special kind of genius of his conversation when the dog shows his understanding by wagging his tail. The cowboy understands the warmth of the sun does not come from the heavens above, but from the eyes of that four legged furry beast he calls his best friend. The cowboy and his cowboy story is sweeter when he travels the peaks and valleys of his life with a dog.
Sometimes when selling my books a youngster may ask me, “Why are cowboys your hero’s?” The short answer is, the American cowboy represents the best of America – the courage, positivity, and plain hard work. Cowboys are heroic not just because they do a precarious job, but also because they stand for something — the humble, basic values that lie at the heart of the cowboy way. Even though their way of life has changed over the last 150 or so years, cowboys to this day still honor and live by their code. Their code of ethics and principles is not taught in schools, but are handed down from one generation of a cowboy to another. They are an abiding source of constant inspiration to do better and be better than we are.
Kurt James © 2019
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Video: Introducing Kurt James – Colorado Storyteller