The cowboy is the epitome of the old West, Hollywood movies, heroes in fiction novels, and good guys who wear white hats. Cowboy heroes are greatly admired. But, just what is a Cowboy?
According to Merrian-Webster Dictionary: Cow*boy (n) is one who tends cattle or horses; especially: a usually mounted cattle-ranch hand; a rodeo performer.
From the American Heritage Dictionary: cow*boy (n) is a hired man, especially in the western United States, who tends catle and preforms many of his duties on horseback. Also called a cowman, cowpoke, cowpuncher, buckaroo, vaquero, waddy, or an adventurous hero.
And from Will James--a cowboy is a man with guts and a horse.
All rolled into one, the dictionaries define our cowboy heroes just as we imagine them when we describe them in novels, whether in contemporary Western romance, or in historical Western settings.
Of all the descriptions that define a cowboy, I like the way renown cowboy actor John Wayne describes the old time cowboys--"They were simple, direct men. They believed in things like liberty and minding their own business."
When the first cowboys were herding longhorns up the Chisholm Trail from Texas to Kansas they were a pretty tough lot, but they had to be. It was a rough era in our history. There was no room or time for luxury.
Out of the lives of these cowboys have come all sorts of stories and legends. Some true and some mostly fiction. But the most authentice and dependable evidence of what the cowboys really were has come from the artists who pictured them in their true environment, risking their lives in stampedes, freezing or sweating, under the stars, by lonely campfires, rowdying in saloons, fighting, branding and whooping it up around the chuck wagons.
Were they all tall, dark and handsome with six-pack abs? It's doubtful. These men came in all sizes, shapes, facial features and nationalities. No matter, though, cowboys will always be my heroes.