My heros are cowboys
There's an old country western song where a singer boldly brags that his heros have always been cowboys. Growing up on ranches in Canada and Montana I can identify. As a youngster I was hauled to rodeos every weekend and grew up around brandings, roundups and rodeos.
Although I was the only boy out of at least a dozen cousins who chose not to be a rancher or a full-time cowboy my heart is still there most of the time. As the saying goes you can take the boy out of the country but you can never really take the country out of the boy.
The past two weekends I have spent a good amount of time horseback riding through some of Utah's most incredible country. Two weeks ago I rode back into the canyons southeast of Castle Valley where many movies have been shot. Because of the heat we rode later in the afternoon and we watched the sun set over the beautiful red rocks along the Colorado River.
This past weekend I was a guest at the Tavaputs Ranch high above East Carbon and had the opportunity to ride with the Butch Jensen family through the meadows and valleys of the incredible Tavaputs Plateau. Sitting on a horse and looking down over the San Rafael Swell and finding the place where Price River joins the Green River almost took our breath away. We enjoyed a couple of great rain showers up on the mountain and the fresh smell of rain coupled with the wild flowers and the colors of the canyons and mountain meadows was any photographer's dream come true.
But what kept coming back to my mind as I rode both times was how this country has remained almost untouched for generations. I kept thinking what it would have been like to be a cowboy 100 years ago. The cowboys called the canyons and bunkhouses home, they learned to know the river crossings, landmarks and the groves of aspens.
In the evenings while I was there was a lot of talk about riding, rodeos and roundups, experiences of the Jensen and Wilcox families who settled this part of the county.
The cowboy talk reminded me of an e-mail that ended up on my desk last week. I have no idea who wrote it, but I can identify with so much of it. It implies how some people feel that cowboys are simpleminded.
In response to this attitude the author asked the question, "Have you ever watched a rodeo?" It went on to talk about interviewing the contestants after they completed their event and getting a glimpse into the character of these athletes, "something like the ones conducted proceeding title fights and following basketball and football games."
"Cody, you made a spectacular ride, which moves you into first place. How do you feel about your position as the number one bull rider in the country?"
"We'll maam I've been real lucky, I've drawn some good bulls and everything has fallen into place for me this year. Before his closest competitor comes out of the chute, this cowboy climbs up on the fence and helps him tie on his rigging. He gives that same guy a high five at the side of the arena when he's beaten by two points on the ride he helped him prepare for.
How many times have you seen an arena full of rodeo fans take to the streets following a competition and set fire to cars or hold an impromptu riot because they felt dissatisfied with the final outcome, as Michigan State students did earlier this year. There is no booing of officials when scores are announced.
Cowboys regularly loan each other equipment and even horses when a fellow competitor's ride didn't arrive in time for that night's roping or bulldogging event.
When the Star Spangled Banner is played, rodeo fans rise to their feet and put their hats over their heart in respect. And I have never seen a tee-shirt with offensive messages worn by a cowboy.
When a cowboy or cowgirl is injured the community holds fund-raisers and donates time and money to help him or her and their families through rough financial times. I remember a couple of the incredible fund-raisers held for my brother when he was dying of cancer. It was sponsored by his cowboy buddies and the community support that poured out to make those evenings successful was incredible.
Headlines never seem to carry news of a world champion bull rider or calf roper beating up his wife or being arrested for molesting underage girls.
The question on the e-mail asks, "So what's wrong with being described as a cowboy?" It seems to me to be high praise in a world of folks with questionable moral standards.
Being reared in a cowboy family has given me a pretty good outlook on life. They will always be my heros.