Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Cowboy

Dawn breaks at the cattle ranch. First out of the bunk-house is the cook, who prepares breakfast for the men. Next out is a cow-hand, dressed in a plaid shirt, hard-wearing Levis, and a pair of boots with heels which will not slip out of the stirrups. Later he will don a neckerchief with which to wipe his brow, a wide-brimmed hat to shield him from the sun, and wide leather chaps, if he’s going to be branding cattle. On his belt he carries a wooden-handled knife which he keeps sharp and clean, as well as a wooden-handled .45, essentially a humane killer in case a beast breaks a leg out on the range and has to be put down. Everything he wears and carries is serviceable and well looked-after, the tools of his trade. He is a cow-hand.

Much later in the morning, from the main house steps the Dude, a visitor from out East. He makes quite a picture: matching shirt and pants all embroidered and fringed, a huge, white, pristine ten-gallon hat, a fancy tooled gun belt with matching, pearl-handled .45s, as well as a pair of fancy high boots. He is going to have a ride on a carefully chosen, mild-tempered mare. He thinks he is a cow-hand.

It’s funny: some people say cowboy to mean not to be taken seriously, doesn’t know what he’s doing. Here, you can see the picture, can’t you? Who is the serious person, who the poser? When it comes to needing a guide through the sagebrush, or through life, would you rather trust the cow-hand or the Dude, the experienced person or the man in the fancy clothes and silly hat?

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