Saturday, April 17, 2010

I'm a cowboy.

The other day I rode my bike past the home of one of my cycling friends, Kevin. Kevin's wife trains horses and was outside with a recently acquired male named Thunder. He is a big grey horse with large brown eyes and strong intelligent features.

Karen was working with him as I rode by. She called out for me to stop. It seems that Thunder is nervous around bicycles. I could help with his training. She brought him out to the street and asked me to ride back and forth past him, slowly to acclimate him to bicycles and riders. I was afraid that the horse might bolt, but I did as I was asked, and the horse seemed to accept it without panic.

"Now," Karen said, "stand still so he can come up to you."

I stopped and Thunder walked up to me and began bumping my brake hood with his nose. Then he began "lipping" it. "Oh that's good," she said, "he's nosing it." Just then, Thunder snorted. "Oh look, he's nervous and scared." she observed. I thought, Oh good, that makes two of us.

Here was an animal that weighed over 800 pounds, had teeth that could bite the piss out of you and hooves that could stomp you to death in less than a minute. The only thing controlling that beast was a half-inch nylon rope attached on one end to a bridle and on the other to a woman who couldn't weigh 125 pounds if she had sand in her pockets. I stood very still and acted unafraid; perhaps horses, like dogs could sense fear.

Wanting to move away, I changed the subject. "I'm a cowboy." I announced to Karen. She looked at my quizzically. "I've just never owned a horse." I volunteered. I could tell by the way she was looking at me that she was doubting my self-disclosure.

But you see, I really am a cowboy. Cowboy is a state of mind. Cowboy is a way of being, and may have nothing to do with horses or pointy boots. Here's what Teddy Roosevelt Jr. once wrote about cowboys after spending some time out west...

"...their courage, their phenomenal physical endurance, their humor, the unwritten code that ruled the cow camp: Meanness, cowardice, and dishonesty are not tolerated, there is a high regard for truthfulness and keeping one's word, and intense dislike for a man who shirks his work".

The cowboy was bold, cared about his work, was self-reliant and self confident. Most important of all, the cowboy seemed to know how to deal with death, since death in a dozen different forms was an everyday part of his life."

From "Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail" by Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

You see, I'm a cowboy. Too bad cowboys are in short supply these days. We could use more. I heard on the radio today that the U.S. Postal Service was issuing 4 stamps to honor some movie cowboys. Stamps are good. Movie cowboys are OK. But we need more real cowboys. What about you? Are you a cowboy? Wanna be?

I'm a cowboy.

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