Of the enduring symbols of America, the cowboy ranks among the most memorable. But what exactly constitutes a cowboy? Who can claim to be one? For a technical definition, Webster states a cowboy is, “One who tends cattle or horses, a usually mounted ranch-hand.”
This we can all agree upon, however, is it a good definition? Would the cattle feeder who owns thousands of cattle and spends most his time in the feed truck or on a tractor be a cowboy? What about the nutritionist that sees cattle from his pickup seat? Obviously he’s caring for the cattle, but doesn’t own them or doctor them. And the trainer is a fantastic horseman, but never spends a minute of his time with a cow. Is he a cowboy?
I would say these are valid questions. Rather than give my feelings outright, I thought I’d offer this little poem to voice my opinion.
What Makes a Cowboy?
As I was shopping for tires one day,
I felt a light tug on my sleeve.
I looked down and spied a fairly young lad,
Around eight years old I believe.
“Pardon me sir, but are you a cowboy?”
He asked in an excited voice.
“You have a big hat, western boots and a belt!”
But to answer him was a tough choice.
You see, I don’t ride on a horse very much,
I traverse this great land in a Ford.
And I only will rope when I’m stuck in a bind,
because a cow wants me to be gored.
I work with cows almost every day,
Which is a part of a good cowboy’s job.
But most of the time I wear bibs and a sleeve,
‘Cause I’m covered in dung like a slob.
It’s because I’m a vet, a “cow doc” they say,
I’ll preg all of the cows in your herd.
I can pull a stuck calf, while making you laugh,
If I slip and land right in a turd.
Instead of a six-gun in my right hand,
Implant guns have to suffice.
I brave any weather to tend to your cows,
Fearing not rain, heat, wind, snow or ice.
But gosh, a cowboy is what I look like?
I’m not sure I fit that grand title.
I always thought not being covered in crap
Or wearing rubber boots was considered vital.
On second thought, I suppose this young man,
Could help me answer his question.
So I looked down and asked his novice opinion,
“Buddy, could I have your suggestion?”
“Yes I am wearing this ten gallon hat,
a belt and heeled leather boots,
But surely there’s more that makes a cowboy,
Then dressing up in some fancy suit?”
The boy cocked his head and shut his left eye,
The gears in his head were a spinning.
Then his eyes lit up as he looked back at me,
The correct answer had him just grinning.
“A cowboy’s a man that spends his day with cows,
he cares for them all, big and small.”
I guess that definition would describe me,
Despite the manure, the rubber boots and all.
So I reached down and pat him on top of his head,
And told him the truth with a grin,
“By that definition then yes I’m a cowboy,
Now I’ll know my answer if asked again.”