Baxter Black: The cowboy image
The livestock business has an effective symbol that has withstood the loving treatment of Hollywood, Nashville and Madison Ave. It is now under attack by the Anti-Livestock Industry. It is the cowboy.
Hollywood made heroes of cowboys who always got the bad guy, practiced safe shooting and could leap on their horse from a burning train! Then Hollywood gave us the urban cowboy who could disco and wore a straw hat made of oatmeal, rattlesnake heads and sweepings off a chicken house floor!
Nashville turned us into four-wheel drive cowboys. Yodelers with pompadours who drank too much and looked like a cross between Elvis and a Philipino bus!
Madison Avenue has given us chain smokers and cologne called ‘Stetson’ and ‘Chaps’ (as in, that sure chaps my butt!). All designed for men who don’t wear socks.
Through it all the public’s image of cowboys has remained positive. The Anti-Livestock Industry has had a tough time tarnishing our symbol. It’s been hard for them to portray the American cowboy as a money grubbing, animal abusing land raper. They whack away at it persistently, often using the ruse that the cowboy is a vanishing breed. That he no longer exists and therefore, this symbol that everybody loves has no connection with the modern livestock business. This myth continues to be promoted to the point that we are often asked if it is true our way of life is dying.
To this I reply, ‘No. Of course not! Who do you think is takin’ care of the cows?’ But, they say, we never see them.
There is a good explanation as to why you never see cowboys. It is possible to get in a car and drive from Philadelphia to Fresno and be completely insulated from the territory you cross.
The car is climate controlled. You never roll down the windows. You pull onto the freeway that is the same from the one end of the country to the other. Although you drive through green to brown, from high to low, you never have to change the cruise control.
You come down an off ramp into virtually the same self-service gas station/convenience store. You use the same credit card and buy the same cardboard coffee and irradiated snack cake.
You turn on SiriusXM radio and constantly switch between RFD, Fox News and Willy’s Place. You stay in the same temperature controlled Holiday Inn or Motel 6, see the same CNN or HBO. You eat at the same Denny’s or McDonalds. It is possible to drive from coast to coast and never leave your cocoon.
But I can guarantee there is life beyond the freeway. You can find homes, schools, roads, farms and ranching communities thriving. And cowboys. Lots of ‘em! The only thing is, friends, you just can’t see ‘em from the road!