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Sat, July 20

Williams: What I know about being a cowboy

If I took everything I really know about the cowboy life, I wouldn’t be able to construct a lengthy sentence. But with inuendo, pure fabrication and a fair amount of subjective interpretation, I’ll bet I can stretch this puppy into my normal 600-word column length.

I’ve learned through watching thousands of old western movies that what a cowboy says is critically important to maintaining the true aura of cowboy-ism. For example, a real cowpoke would never say, “I shall (or shan’t) go to the corral today.” He also would never order a pumpkin spice latte with whipped cream. And I strenuously doubt that he would ever ask for a plate of escargot in a restaurant. Such words are not to be found in the “How to be a cowboy” literature.

Clothing is also equally fundamental. One would never order a pair of “them new fringed boots with a matching fancy neck scarf.” And I’ve never seen any cowboy anywhere wear a fashion accessory that was pastel-colored. Well, one exception might have been John Wayne when he wore an orangey-hued shirt in a couple of his mid-career films. But he was well established by then. I can’t talk about clothing selections before the days that westerns were shot in color. Before then, everyone wore things in various shades of gray and black. It was easy to tell the good guys (white hats) from the bad ones (black hats). Well, except for Hop-Along Cassidy. He insisted on wearing a black hat. John and Hoppy could get away with disrespecting the conventional rules of western society, apparently.

Hats, in fact, were serious parts of the cowboy ensemble. The most believable ones were decorated with equal touches of sweat and dust. A true cowboy probably would never allow other substances to come into contact with his headgear such as baby powder or suntan lotion. Or hair spray. Also, I’ve never seen a TV or movie cowboy wear a hat that said, “Free the Whales.”

And I doubt that cowboys ever used business cards. Well, except for Paladin, but he wasn’t a typical cowboy so he doesn’t count. If cowboys did use business cards, they’d probably have been authenticated by stains of undetermined origin. Beer bottle and shot glass sweat rings on a card would be acceptable. If a man of the West chose to advance his reputation by including smudges from the barnyard on his card that was up to him.

A cowboy’s weapons, of course, were carefully considered and selected. I thought John Wayne’s six-shooter and gun belt were way too small for a man of his size. On the other hand, Audie Murphy just wasn’t large enough to sport two six-guns as he did in the movie A Kid from Texas. I always admired Marshal Matt Dillon’s choice of artillery. His was a Colt single-action model 1873, 7 ½ -inch 45-caliber piece of work. He knew how to use it to shoot down the other guy on the main street of Dodge City at the beginning of each Gunsmoke episode.

With regard to cuisine, I remember that for breakfast, Matt Dillon ordered steak, eggs and coffee. I never once heard him ask for a muffin, bagel or a low-fat banana fritter. Of course, cattle drive cowboys always ate stewed-meat, beans and coffee. And in all the TV and movie cattle drives I’ve personally witnessed, the term “vegan burger” never came up even once.

And I never, never have seen a cattle drive cowboy with a fanny pack. Fanny packs in those days were called saddle bags! SADDLE BAGS!

To comment on this column, email wilaugust46@gmail.com.

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