The National Day of the Cowboy is an opportunity for folks to celebrate and honor the Cowboy, a true American icon. You could say the West created the Cowboy or the Cowboy created the West and either way, you’d be right. Cowboys occupy an important place in our country’s history and they’ve been immortalized (if somewhat misrepresented) on the silver screen. What a lot of people don’t know is that there are many cowboys who are still doing the same kind of work all over the West that they did in the 19th century. Even with all the technological changes, the job is still pretty much the same.
I never refer to myself as a cowboy. I have done enough of the work now and know enough good hands that I have a tremendous respect for the complicated skills and vast knowledge needed to do the job properly. Over the years, the life of the cowboy has been romanticized in the media. While there are definitely pleasurable aspects to the work…riding out at sun-up in the glorious surroundings that nature provides us out West…it is a difficult and often dangerous job. Having just returned from Wyoming, which they laughingly refer to as the “banana belt” of the West, I can tell you that if you had to face the blizzards and that wild Wyoming wind in the frigid winter months, you’d think twice about the “glamorous” life of the cowboy. And still, men and women continue to do the job they love in spite of all the hardships.
We wouldn’t have a cowboy without the horse. The horse has been and continues to be the primary tool of the cowboy. More than that, the horse has served as friend, companion and on occasion, life-saver for many a good cowboy. These are noble, intelligent and brave animals…that is, unless they’re kicking you, biting you or bucking you off. In that case, there have been many colorful descriptions of them tossed about extemporaneously by cowboys in the heat of the moment. The horse is really what this article is about.
There is a wonderful non-profit organization in Santa Fe, NM called Horses For Heroes (www.horsesforheroes.org). Through their Cowboy Up! Program, they provide a unique horsemanship, wellness and skill-set restructuring program for veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom- Afghanistan who have sustained physical injuries or combat trauma (PTSD) during their time serving our country. They give these brave men and women the experience of working hands on with their horses, beginning with groundwork and progressing to riding, as well as participating in other aspects of ranch work such as working cattle. Anyone who has been lucky enough to spend time around horses knows that there is an amazing non-verbal communication process that occurs which has tremendous potential for healing. It is our pleasure here at the New Mexico Chapter of the Western Music Association to donate the proceeds from the two National Day of the Cowboy concerts we are putting on to the wonderful folks at Horses For Heroes.
Anyone who knows the cowboy culture knows that it is a part of the way of life to help your friends and neighbors. You don’t make a big deal out of it, you just do it. We of the WMA/NM Chapter are honored to provide support to this wonderful organization by doing what we love to do…entertain folks with our music about Cowboys.
“That’s what cowboys do, when there’s work to be done, they see the job through
If you need a friend to lend a hand, he’ll (she’ll!) be there for you, cause that’s what cowboys do.” (“That’s What Cowboys Do,” by Jim Jones, © 2006)