Why I Still Want To Be A Cowboy When I Grow Up

Why I Still Want To Be A Cowboy When I Grow Up

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When I was a child I dreamed much bigger than I do now. I wanted to be a lot of things.  Professional baseball looked good to me around the second grade. That thought left me somewhere around the fifth grade.  The astronaut thing was appealing for a while but Huntsville was a whole hour away so that was out of the question.  Several other dreams came and went. There is one that stuck though. I still want to be a cowboy.

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Let me first tell you what I don’t mean when I say cowboy.  When I was growing up my dad kept a few head of cattle on our place.  Some of them were against being fenced in. They always seemed to try and make their escape in the late hours of the night and usually in the rain. I suppose they assumed they would go unnoticed at those times.  There is nothing like trying to put rebellious cows back in the pasture at midnight in the rain.  Then, on other very special occasions, calves would need to be helped into this cold world.  Oh the horror associated with that procedure! I in no way desire to be a cowboy that actually owns cows.

Then there are cowboys at the rodeo. Some ride bucking broncos. Others ride bulls.  Some even bail off their horses and tackle steers.  In my opinion these are some of the toughest folks alive. I’ve tried to ride a horse a time or two but they made me sneeze a lot. The obvious fit for me at the rodeo would be the clowns but I am a little slow-footed for that profession.  I know a few Chris Ledoux songs but I don’t think that is enough to qualify as a rodeo cowboy. No, that’s not what I mean by cowboy either.

When I say I want to be a cowboy, I mean the movie version.  I want to be that mysterious gunslinger that no one dares cross.  I want to be deadly with a rifle from hundreds of yards across the desert.  In the evening I could play my guitar next to the campfire and sing songs about lost love and simple living.  I would sleep under the stars, with my boots on of course, and breathe in the fresh, clean air of the American West.  In the movie Hombre, Richard Boone refers to Paul Newman’s bravery as “hard bark.”  That’s the kind of cowboy I want to be.

I have owned one pair of cowboy boots in my life.  They were python skin, I think. I’m not sure that they would have been a very functional boot out west but they sounded good banging down the hardwood floors at the old high school.  There is a shotgun and a guitar in the corner of my bedroom.  I’m not much with a rifle so the shotgun is there for short ranged opponents. I can’t play the guitar at all but it looks nice there beside the gun, like it could be the cover of a Louis L’Amour novel.  I don’t own a cowboy hat and I am allergic to horses.  I have a long way to go before I become a cowboy.  I am still dreaming of that life.  Maybe I’ll get there one day.  If not I think I’ll take up writing but that’s a long shot.




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