The National Day of the Cowboy is today (the fourth Saturday in July)!
He’s the quintessential American folk hero—the brave individual who faced the untamed elements beneath the big skies of the wide-open American West. He’s the stuff of legends—America’s Robin Hood, our William Tell, our knight-errant. For that matter, when we consider the strong and courageous women of the frontier West, cowgirls are our Joan of Arc, heroes facing and overcoming hardship and perils—with or without a man at their side.
True, much of it is myth that has grown over time. Yet a great deal of American cowboy culture is founded in facts, based on virtues and values that have contributed in a powerful way to the forging of a distinct and honorable American spirit.
And today is the day to remember and celebrate America’s cowboy heritage. So “get your cowboy on!”
Five Ways to Celebrate National Day of the Cowboy
- Wear your cowboy boots.
Go on into your closet and dig out those cowboy boots you haven’t worn in a while—if you own a pair. (And if you don’t, may I ask why not?) Put ’em on. Nothing says cowboy better than a good pair of boots. We could argue over brands here, but in my humble opinion (and within certain parameters), that’s a matter of fit, pocketbook, and personal taste, not to mention whether you wear cowboy boots as a fashion item or because they’re the best footwear for the specific work you do.
Some might claim that the hat is the distinguishing hallmark of a true cowboy. Well, whatever rocks your horse. I can certainly appreciate a good Stetson, Resistol, or custom cowboy hat.
- Watch a Western on TV.
After you’ve finished mowing the lawn and getting some cold refreshments and a shower, why not put your feet up and watch your favorite Western on TV? Whether an episode of a classic TV series (from “Rawhide” to “The Rifleman”), a landmark cowboy movie, or a recent DVD release you haven’t yet seen. If it’s a fairly new release you’re looking for, may I suggest “Jane Got a Gun,” starring Natalie Portman? Just saw it a couple of weeks ago with my wife. Thoroughly enjoyed it!
- Read a Western novel or short story.
You don’t have to commit to 300 pages (although you may soon want to). Many of the great Western authors have written captivating short stories that only take half an hour to read. I’m partial to Elmore Leonard’s short stories, but Louis L’Amour, Ben Bridges, and countless others have written quick reads set in the Old West. I just picked up Alex Cord’s new book, High Moon at Hacienda del Diablo.
- Google a nearby cowboy event you can attend.
Some folks east of the Mississippi (and West of the Rockies) are surprised to learn that there is a strong cowboy heritage in their own state. There is rodeo in Kissimmee, Florida—authentic rodeo, not of the theme park dinner-and-a-show variety. Same goes for Davie in South Florida. Oregon east of the Cascades is horse and cattle country. And you can find Wild West festivals and Cowboy Action Shooting events in most states, coast to coast.
- Go out for barbecue, then for Western music.
I know, barbecue has a complicated family tree, some of the roots of which have nothing whatsoever to do with cowboys, cattle-trail cooking, or the Old West. So get a mesquite-grilled steak somewhere instead. Anything that makes you think “cowboy.”
Then take in some music you might not ordinarily listen to. One thing, though: Cowboy Western and Country-Western are not the same thing. I’m not knocking Country-Western, now. But when we’re talking cowboy music, we’re not talking songs about a fella in jail whose wife ran out on him while he took a train up to Shelby County to get a new, used pick-up truck to replace the one he smashed up after he drank too much beer the night his dog died (not that Country-Western fits that description either…necessarily). Today anyway—on the National Day of the Cowboy—we’re looking for, well, cowboy-themed music. Just for the fun of it.
Remember the American Cowboy
Whatever you do today, hope you enjoy it—cowboy style. And why not let others know about cowboy and Western activities you have enjoyed by posting in the comments section below.