At 4am, the glamour of cowboy life loses some of its attraction
March 8, 2018 4:41 PM   Subscribe

I don't call myself a cowboy… That’s not a title you can just bestow on yourself, it’s something other people have to give you the recognition for. The popular saying is if someone the asks you if you’re a cowboy, you say “No, but I’ll do till one comes along.”
My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, a Musical Documentary with Waylon Jennings.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey (5 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
“No, but I’ll do till one comes along.”

It's interesting that the title of cowboy is seen as highly valorous within its profession, and simultaneously used as a pejorative outside of it (i.e., for wilfully negligent builders and such). I wonder whether it is along the same arc as tech-industry terms like “rock star” and “ninja”, only further along its journey.
posted by acb at 5:06 PM on March 8

When I was a little kid I thought Waylon Jennings was a duo act: Whale ‘n’ Jennings.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:27 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]

Larry McMurtry, from Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: "Readers don't want to know and can't be made to see how difficult and destructive life in the Old West really was." I started reading this memoir/reflection/essay collection on a whim, and am struck by his assessment of the frontier life--that it lasted for not more than two generations, and was not merely unglamorous but damned difficult and depressing; the contemporary myth of the cowboy rose and had a life in its wake, rather than in its prime. The only cow farmer McMurtry knew in his little town, when he was a boy, was a Dutch (?) immigrant, whose last act before ending his life was to milk the cows, a topic of wonder for the town afterward. As for the cowboys...McMurtry talks about the realization early on that he'd never be one of them. His head was always in a precious book (a war-bound cousin had left 19 volumes with him, his first real books) and he didn't have the natural grace or earned competence of the men around him. Later on, he'd come to realize that these men were not cowboys in the mythical sense, but working men playing out some of the old ways. So even as I'm tickled as I watch ol' Waylon hanging out with the cowboys, I think about McMurtry, and how a much-reduced myth can still be with us, even now.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:18 PM on March 8 [6 favorites]

I really like the juxtaposition of this thread with the "definition of the word 'retire'" thread one post down
posted by gusandrews at 8:50 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]

I grew up with cowboys. All the actual cowboys I've known have been of four types:
    Whipskinny tallish white guys who didn't talk much and were as likely to listen to metal as country;
    Small, broadshouldered older Hispanic men who either dressed like TV cowboys or vatos, and could probably kill you just by punching you;
    Grizzled old people who are just tough as goddamn nails;
    Asshole rich dudes who don't get along with anyone and decide they're gonna move out west and farm ostriches or some shit.
Only one of the four rides a horse anywhere they could get to in a truck.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:16 AM on March 9 [12 favorites]

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