Willie Nelson said it best. “My heroes have always been cowboys / And they still are, it seems. / Sadly in search of, and one step in back of / Themselves, and their slow movin’ dreams.”
Cowboy values have a place in the lives of us all. The cowboy, symbol of grit, determination, and can-do spirit, has long been an inspiration to millions of Americans from coast to coast. Here in West Texas, the cowboy is a modern-day hero and, even better, a neighbor. We know plenty of them as customers of ours. That’s just one of the things that makes working with the West Texas public so enjoyable for us.
They talk to us on our routes. They come into our office to see our staff. And while they’re here, share a word or two and even—imagine this—venture a wisecrack.
Cowboys are hard-working, plainspoken, and straight-shooting. And they are also smart, funny, and philosophical.
That said, we share some observations about cowboys and the cowboy life.
Cowboy Value: Being the Hands-on Kind
What other nation has as its national inspiration a rural worker? We hear of countries that reserve their highest reverence for military successes, scientists, painters, literary lions, soccer players, politicos. And certainly all these roles have their great and noble practitioners.
But here in a country where achievement is highest, where military might is unexcelled, where science knows no boundaries, where technology leads the world, sports rules supreme, and politics is, well, politics… here we find that the figure deemed most emblematic of the nation and its values is a rural worker, a tender of livestock.
And yet on reflection we find that that rural worker, the cowboy, is for Americans not just agricultural laborer but also thinker, steward, benefactor, poet, upholder of justice, problem solver, sportsman, gentleman, and knight-errant. Only in America.
Cowboy Value: Never Too Talkative
No segment of society is more steadfast in its advocacy for the virtue of maintaining blessed silence than the cowboy crowd. The most succinct expression of that sentiment comes in the cowboy saying, “Never miss a chance to shut up.” There’s also this, expressed in another old saying: “No one is as interested in what you’re saying as you are.” Which, when you stop to think about it, is just another way of telling a person to shut up.
Cowboy Value: Know Your Own Mind
We described the cowboy as a hard worker. Hard work requires will power and endurance, and these traits bring personal growth and development of character. To say that one has character is to say that he or she accepts, appreciates, and strives to do, what’s right.
Character also instills a principled, settled outlook that allows a person to cut to the heart of things. Lots of country folks, and rural-minded folks, and just West Texas folks in general, display this quality. Cowboys, too. Their decisiveness comes from knowing their own minds.
People don’t really get to know their own minds until they’ve faced trials and discovered how their attitudes and ideas stand up to tests, whether by danger, hardship, or extremes. Cowboys and other agricultural workers get exposed to a lot of extremes. And they have ample time to search their souls in solitude, to discover and test what really answers.
The ways—and the attitudes and ideas—of cowboys, farmers, of all who get closest to nature, have something to offer to everyone. We hope to keep sharing with you the heartland sensibilities that make our region great. And that make you—our neighbors—great, and that make us blessed to be all in this journey together.
Cowboy Value: Live the Code
Cowboys abide by a code that says that the stronger serves the weaker. It’s a principle that runs through the universe, and is implanted in every creature, but some listen to that voice and others tune it out. Cowboys, being deep thinkers, are attuned to life’s essentials. The essentials are more plainly seen on the merely-scraping-by level than on the well-satisfied and -secure level.
Anybody who’s ever been suddenly confronted by real danger or loss understands that. That’s when you remember the things that are really important. Things like being grateful. And trying to protect the defenseless, whether it’s animals or people. And pitching in where neighborly help is needed.
These are important matters. But on another level, they’re merely pointers. Pointers toward something higher. Because if there’s not something higher, more lofty and sacred, than the material things of this world, something higher than “progress,” then the elderly really are not any more deserving of respect than anyone else, and work really doesn’t have any dignity—only utility—and the strong have no need to serve the weak.
But somewhere down in your gut you know they do. And that knowledge is in itself a gift, a gift from stronger to weaker, a promise from richer to poorer, a sign from the Good Lord to cowboys and all other folks.
If you haven’t tried it yet, you might want to immerse yourself in the cowboy lifestyle, the most satisfying, salubrious, unscurrilous, scintillating lifestyle that was ever devised by the mind of God, short of being one of His children. And if you haven’t tried that one yet, might as well, and we’ll catch you on the other side.