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Opinion: Tough, stoic cowboys? Yeah, right

Unlike the image that most people have of cowboys, depicted by old western movies and dime-store novels, today’s cowboy is different. Or is he?

I was going through security at the airport the other day and overheard (ok, maybe I eavesdropped) on a conversation about cowboys that was sparked by my belt buckle and cowboy hat. One lady remarked that she liked cowboys but that they never show any emotion. The other was attracted just because she thought they were stoic.

I laughed to myself as I thought they were debating the stereotype that western movies and the like have created. If I had been invited into their conversation, I may have interjected that the stereotype of the stoic, emotionless cowboy isn’t all that accurate.

Admittedly, cowboys do have a code of sorts. They don’t like complainers and they don’t share their problems with others needlessly. Of course, every rule has its exception and theirs is that complaining about the weather and the markets is fair game, mostly I suppose because they can’t do anything about it.

Cowboys certainly don’t tend to be the “huggy” types who express a lot of emotions. A firm handshake and a smile usually get the point across. But I wouldn’t say cowboys are devoid of emotions either.

I think we all feel that reverence when the first calf is born, or know the elation or sorrow that comes from a good or bad market. I think there is a special bond between ranching families and especially between spouses, as their existence and business is so closely linked. Cattlemen rely on family, in part out of necessity and in part because they have no choice. You might not be able to ask someone else to get up at 1:00 in the morning in a blizzard, but the spouse and kids? That’s a different story.

Perhaps we should say I love you, or talk about the wonders of Mother Nature, more, and perhaps it would be healthier from a psychology standpoint to share our problems and struggles more openly with others. Yet, there is almost an unspoken understanding that these things are obvious. 

When that big buck stands up in the draw or the eagle takes flight, we rein up and we watch, and whether we are alone or with a big group, there is no need to discuss it. When the trusted dog or steady horse finally gives up the ghost, we shed a tear or two.

But perhaps it is because there is so much passion and so much ebb and flow when it comes to the emotions evoked by our way of life that we have learned to simply enjoy the good moments and persevere through the bad. Like the weather, everything has a cycle.

The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of and the Penton Agriculture Group.

TAGS: Ranching
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