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Watch Your Mouth

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Lee Pitts

I have a bone to pick with urban journalists, politicians and Hollywood celebrities who frequently refer to immoral, vulgar, unethical and reckless bullies as “cowboys.” Such pseudo-cowboys wouldn’t know the difference between a Hereford and a heifer.

Unless you’re willing to stay up all night with a colicky horse, a sick dog or a pen of expectant heifers, you’re no cowboy.

I really doubt those celebrity frauds the pundits call “cowboys” can sew up a prolapse with a hair from the mane of his horse. A horse, by the way, once a rank lunatic colt but was transformed into a trusted colleague, co-worker and friend for life by a real cowboy with years of patience and quiet prodding.

A bona fide cowboy knows instinctively when a neighbor is in trouble and needs assistance. A cowboy is there in a flash when a neighbor’s grass fire needs putting out.

Every year at branding time, a true cowboy donates his services to work the calves of his friends, just as they will do for him when his turn comes. There’s no roll call, formal invitation or record kept. A real cowboy simply shows up, usually with his family intact, and the whole family finds some way to help, even if it’s just herding the flies away from the donuts. It’s called “neighborin,” a concept foreign to the so-called “cowboys” the talking heads on TV refer to.

A real-life cowboy can rope a cow in brush so thick deer get lost.

On 20 below zero freezing days, a cowboy with icicles hanging from his mustache can be found on top of a wagon or a truck forking out feed to hungry cows and chipping the ice in water troughs so the cattle and the wildlife, who share in the feast, can also have a drink.

You can tell a complete cowboy by his hands which are scarred, rough and calloused – unlike the soft, pink and smooth hands of the desk-riding bureaucratic imposter.

A real cowboy can dance all Saturday night and be on time for cowboy church the next morning.

When the boss says to “change the leathers,” an authentic cowboy knows it means to fix a windmill, while the fraudster probably thinks it has something to do with a wardrobe change.

A real cowboy can float a reata into a packed remuda and have it gently land around the neck of the horse he intended to rope.

Unlike the urban cowboys, the genuine cowboy works from dawn to dusk without a pension and maybe even health insurance. He furnishes his own saddle, tack and silver bit which he sleeps with at night so it won’t be freezing cold the next morning when he puts it in the mouth of the horse, which he might also furnish.

A real cowboy doesn’t wear an Apple or any other smartwatch, yet he can tell you within 10 minutes what time it is. 

How many celebrity “cowboys” have you seen step into the path of a one-ton charging bull armed only with a plastic paddle without a stunt man or stand-in? 

A real cowboy can stay in the saddle on a bucking bronc, even if he’s 70 years old. He might even enjoy the ride.

Genuine cowboys are this country’s true “native sons,” even if they are, in fact, female. Women cowboys can do everything their male counterparts can do and consider it a badge of honor to be called a cowboy.

If a genuine cowboy gets a day off, he probably spends it hauling his family to a youth rodeo, calf scramble or the county fair where his son or daughter is showing a pig.

An honest-to-God cowboy survives on two meals a day and always feeds and waters his horse before himself.

A real-life, authentic cowboy can weld, drive a Cat, shape a branding iron, shoe a horse and irrigate a meadow. During roundup time, he may sleep on the ground with his saddle for a pillow and his back for a blanket. 

So next time you’re tempted to call someone a cowboy who can’t do any of these things, just follow the advice a real cowboy might offer and just, “Shut your pie hole.”

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