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The Day of The Cowboy by Garry Stauber

   
Willy Nelson summed it up for me when he sang, "I grew up a-dreamin' of being a Cowboy and learnin' the Cowboy way." I think most boys and even plenty of girls who grew up in my generation wanted to obtain Cowboy or Cowgirl status at some point in their life. Did you ever want to be a Cowboy or a Cowgirl?

I guess what isnít normal about some of us is that we never grew out of it. Though I spent most of my adult life climbing the career ladder to become an executive in Silicon Valley, I always felt like I was a fish out of water, or at least a fish in the wrong lake. I certainly felt more at home in a saddle than a boardroom full of suits and ties.

But the real question is: What do you have to do to obtain that lofty title of "cowboy" and become worthy of its implications? We have all heard of "wanna-be" or "drugstore" cowboys. My grandfather rode horses and did ranch and farm work his entire life. Yet he didnít consider himself worthy of the title and was even embarrassed when he wore his cowboy hat, as if he hadnít earned that prestigious right.

Now that I have returned to my roots and spend most of my day training and starting horses, I wonder if I can really call myself a cowboy? To finally answer the question of "What is a cowboy?" I turned to Webster's Dictionary. The dictionary says:

cow∑boy Pronunciation: -"boi Function: noun
1 : one who tends cattle or horses; especially : a usually mounted cattle-ranch hand
2 : a rodeo performer

"Someone who tends to horses." Have I finally achieved my childhood dream? Am I a real cowboy? Yeepie Kaiaay! And just in time. Finally, after all these years, the United States Senate named the cowboy a national icon and dedicated a National American Cowboy Day to represent and appropriately celebrate his and her role in the development of the United States..

The resolution reads as follows:

S. Res. 138

       Whereas pioneering men and women, recognized as cowboys, helped establish the American West;

       Whereas that cowboy spirit continues to infuse this country with its solid character, sound family values, and good common sense;

       Whereas the cowboy embodies honesty, integrity, courage, compassion, respect, a strong work ethic, and patriotism;

       Whereas the cowboy loves, lives off of, and depends on the land and its creatures, and is an excellent steward, protecting and enhancing the environment;

       Whereas the cowboy continues to play a significant role in America's culture and economy;

       Whereas approximately 800,000 ranchers are conducting business in all 50 of these United States and are contributing to the economic well being of nearly every county in the Nation;

       Whereas rodeo is the sixth most-watched sport in America;

       Whereas membership in rodeo and other organizations surrounding the livelihood of a cowboy transcends race and gender and spans every generation;

       Whereas the cowboy is an American icon;

       Whereas to recognize the American cowboy is to acknowledge America's ongoing commitment to an esteemed and enduring code of conduct; and

       Whereas the ongoing contributions made by cowboys to their communities should be recognized and encouraged: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Senate--

       (1) designates July 23, 2005, as ``National Day of the Cowboy''; and

       (2) encourages the people of the United States to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

Wow, this is probably the only document written by a modern day U.S. Senate that I read more than once and the whole thing. This document states what the cowboy embodies: " . . . honesty, integrity, courage, compassion, respect, a strong work ethic, and patriotism; Whereas the cowboy loves, lives off of, and depends on the land and its creatures, and is an excellent steward, protecting and enhancing the environment . . ." That is a much tougher standard than Webster's criteria, but I like it and Iím up for the job. Sign me in!

Not only does the Senate recognize our contribution of the past, but also today, and even recognizes we cowboys have a code of conduct. Isnít it a bit amusing that the U.S. Senate would recognize our code of conduct. But I will not digress to ponder that irony any further. I kind of like that we have a code of conduct and will commit to take it seriously. What could be a better "code of conduct" than to take care of our environment and its animals, and contribute greatly to our communities? A code which says I will be honest, show integrity, courage, compassion, respect, a strong work ethic, and patriotism. Okay, I can do that or at least try.

And now that the U.S. Senate decrees that we observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities, I think I will spend most of that day riding a horse. Of course, that is what I do almost every day, but more importantly on the "Day of the Cowboy." So if at one time in your life you desired to get decked out in cowboy or cowgirl attire, go ahead. On July 23, put on your cowboy hat, denim jeans and boots and join me. Ride down the road with pride and tip your hat with dignity to the passers-by you encounter. This is your day! And yes, if your heart desires it . . . you are an official cowboy or cowgirl! Since I am now one, I voted you in. The U.S. Senate has given us our own day. Letís celebrate it with pride!  

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Copyright Garry Stauber © 2005  All rights reserved. In 2003 Garry Stauber completed a 1350 mile, 3 1/2 month horseback trip, riding the length of California with a packhorse. Garry is a member of the Long Riders Guild. He has written articles for publications including California Riding Magazine, Western Times, Trail Blazer, Trail Rider, and is a columnist for the Southern California Equestrian Network www.socalequest.com,  Bay Area Equestrian Network www.bayequest.com,  and Ride! Magazine "Adventure Out". Garry is also a horse trainer and a NARHA Registered Instructor. You can read more of his articles at www.garrystauber.com  
   
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