It seems like the deeper that we dive into this millennial generation, the farther and farther away we get from the cowboy way. It wasn’t long ago that “ma’am” and “sir” were common words in a cowboy’s vocabulary. A young cowboy would nearly break his neck getting to the door before a young lady or an elder. Cussing in public was a rarity and was unheard of around children and women. Cowboys respected the land, the livestock, and the people around them. Being a cowboy meant a lot more than wearing a hat and boots and sitting on the back of a horse.
Today, things are different. Sure, there are still cowboys out there that live by the cowboy code, but they are few and far between and getting less common every day. One of the most common complaints that I hear about team ropers is the lack of respect that seems to be the norm. In a dog-eat-dog world, it’s every man for himself.
So, how do we get back to earning the name “cowboy”? Or are cowboys a dying breed after all? If we want this lifestyle to prevail, we’re going to have to clean up our act!
It all starts with our language. I have heard so many complaints from people lately that they can’t go to a rodeo or jackpot without hearing both guys and gals swearing excessively. And not just in front of adults, but in front of kids and even in front of older folks. It’s not only rude, but complete unnecessary. Trust me, I am guilty of this also. But the first step into fixing an issue is realizing that you have one. If we all make a conscious effort to watch our mouths, perhaps we can change what is now the norm and get back to having a little cowboy class.
Not only do we need to clean up our language, but we also need to clean up our messes! There are smaller producers all over that are fed up with picking up the heaps of trash that gets left behind by contestants. Some are so fed up that they are now refusing to even put on events! This is just sad to me. Where has the respect gone? I have been to thousands of rodeos and jackpots over the years and I can assure you that trash cans are almost always in abundance. So why do we feel it necessary to leave our trash on the ground? Growing up with some pretty good cowboys, I learned at an early age that you leave things in better shape than when you found them. Pick up your trash. Clean your stalls. We aren’t children…we’re cowboys. And cowboys respect other people’s things!
Let’s talk a little more about respect…
My dad was an old school kind of cowboy. Livestock was our livelihood, so our animal’s needs always came before our own. It is not uncommon to walk around the parking lot of a jackpot and see horses that are still cinched up after runs standing tied to the trailer. You will see cowboys standing around drinking beer while their horses go without water. Respect runs so much deeper than just human to human. As cowboys and cowgirls, we need to be respectful of the livestock also. Our horses rely on us to stay alive. They give us everything they’ve got because we ask it of them. So, it is our job to take care of them! When you are finished making a run, uncinch your horse. Give him a drink! Don’t make him stand in a filthy stall! We are blessed to live the life we lead…we need to start acting like it!
Speaking of acting like it…as cowboys and cowgirls, we need to lose the attitude towards each other! We are all in this together, so it’s time we start respecting each other as well.
This last weekend, I was at a small, local rodeo. When we pulled in, there really wasn’t a lot of places to park. My traveling partners and I did our best to find a good spot and pulled in. Considering this isn’t my first rodeo, I knew to leave sufficient space between my trailer and the trailer next to mine. There was more than enough room for horses to be tied, even if they were tied on a long lead so that they could eat and drink. I had been parked there for several hours when I was approached by a woman who proceeded to dog cuss me because I was “parked too close” to her and her horse is known to set back. Meanwhile, said horse is tied at the end of an 8 foot lead rope, by himself, throwing a fit because he is alone…
Calmly and rationally, I suggested that she perhaps tie her horse a bit shorter, or maybe she could move him to the back ring on her trailer so that we could all fit comfortably. What I really wanted to tell her was that if her horse can’t stand tied to the trailer without tearing stuff up, she should probably keep him at the arena with the other horses or leave the ill-mannered turd at home. But, I didn’t. Not only did she refuse to tie her horse shorter, but she also called me a few choice names and then proceeded to bad mouth me to her children while I was still within earshot.
Look, I get it…parking at rodeos can be a nightmare. I have had guys park so close to me that I could barely get my doors open. I have been blocked in. I have had horses back into the fenders of my pickup and cave them in. We all try our best to park but with all the big rigs at rodeos these days, sometimes it can be tough. When things get tight, we need to do our best to be understanding. But most of all, we need to chill out and work together.
As the cowboy lifestyle fades a little more every year, we need to do our best to preserve it. That means we need to stop acting like jack wagons and be solid influences to the next generation by teaching them what cowboys are all about. Take a look at how you act at rodeos and jackpots and ask yourself, “Am I setting a good example?” It’s time that we step up and start acting like the cowboys and cowgirls of past generations and live in a way that would make the old cowboys proud!