As I mentioned in my last column, I have a new book out: Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? Madness, Mayhem, and the Making of America.
I’ve had a few people ask me about the title, and I chose it because I believe there’s no greater American symbol than Cowboys. They were served an absolute crap sandwich in life, and saddled up anyway. Their lives were mean, short, and brutish — bloody in tooth and claw. They had no real future or hope for improving their lot in life, so they did what they had to do.
Americans always have.
Even as bitterly divided as our nation currently is, we’ll reach a point where we’ve got to solve the problems. Both sides will have to suck it up, get in the saddle, and like a team of Cowboys, whoop, holler, and push the Republic forward.
This will happen when our collective crap sandwich gets so bad, we have no choice. Like the famed Cowboys who came into being after the War Between the States, we’re going to have to look in the mirror and say, “I’m screwed. I didn’t ask for it, and I didn’t cause it, but we either ride together or die together.”
As is usually the case, I try to use humor, even when a situation is in no way funny. Humor has a way of pointing out reality. Yes, most of my humor is directed towards the liberals I so vehemently disagree with, but liberals have Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, the (accidentally hilarious show) The View and virtually every successful actor and actress in Hollywood.
I don’t think anyone needs to worry my writings on this website are going to topple the Republic.
Anyway, a few thoughts on cowboys: Just after the Civil War the famed American Cowboy arrived on the scene — tanned, tough, armed to the teeth, and usually found in the saddle, drunk or badly hungover. For some reason, most historians feel a great calling to pooh-pooh the cowboy myth, spending entire pages harping on their low wages, grueling work, and high mortality rate.
Is America a nation of blue-bloods, ballrooms, and ballet? Hardly! This nation — since day one — has been about sweat, blood, challenges, and sucking it up when the going gets tough! The cowboys lived life as real American junkyard dogs — Confederate veterans, freed slaves, Mexicans and the occasional Indian — to a man they dined on cow-patty casseroles for their meal of life, and had no choice but to munch away.
Here’s a fairly accurate conversational dramatization of their predicament …
Confederate Veteran: No land, no money — this sucks.
Freed Slave: Oh, boo-hoo, Confederate. My family was sold off to another master.
Mexican: Hey, my entire country was stolen.
Indian: Money? Land? Family? My country was stolen; my family was slaughtered; my people don’t even have a word for money; and they’re still after me.
Confederate/Freed Slave/Mexican: You win.
Indian: Oh, that does me a lotta good — what do we do now?
Confederate Veteran: I guess I’m gonna sign up for welfare.
Mexican: I think I’ll write a strongly worded letter to my Congressman.
Freed Slave: I’m gonna go to Law School.
Indian: Good thinking! And maybe I’ll catch the tornado express to the Land of Oz!
Rancher: Hey! You fellas want a crappy job that’ll keep ya’ from starving to death?
Confederate/Freed Slave/Mexican/Indian: Where do we sign up?
A Cowboy’s life centered around the pushing of Texas longhorn cattle from the pasturelands of Texas to the railroad junctions in Colorado, Missouri, Kansas, and Wyoming.
After a successful drive (which meant you weren’t dead), the Cowboys would kick it in towns like Tombstone, Dodge City, and Deadwood — names which immediately conjure up visions of Spring Break, no? For the most part, they behaved like you would expect men with nothing to live for and a wad of paycheck cash to behave: They spent it on booze, hookers, and poker … and the rest they blew, foolishly.
This post-Civil War Cowboy Heyday also provided us with all the cool good guys and bad guys. Even World Wrestling Entertainment couldn’t top this lineup: On the side of mayhem stood Jessie & Frank James, Cole Younger and his brothers, Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid … the list goes on.
The side of law and order was equally filled with testosterone — Wild Bill Hickok, Pat Garret, Wyatt Earp & his brothers, Doc Holiday (okay, iffy), Judge Roy Bean … that list goes on, too!
I ask you: Does it get any better than this?
Guns, leather saddles, horses, whiskey, cigars, hookers, poker games, blood, sweat, and well, more sweat, dressed in a full-length duster and a low-slung holster tied to the leg? Men of black, white, red, and tan – all swaggering out into the high noon sun to “do whatta man’s gotta do?”
Is this America, or what?
Sadly, the era of the cowboy lasted only from about 1865 to 1890. First, some spoilsport figured out that the Longhorns could live quite fine, thank-you, up near the rail junctions year-round, thus eliminating the need for the cattle drive. Then another spoilsport invented barbed wire, which allowed ranchers to fence-in their cattle over vast areas, thus eliminating the need for men to cow-sit the herd.
And that was that.
Ranchers needed a better solution, some enterprising American rose to the occasion, and labor costs were slashed. Screwed again, the American Cowboy rode off into the sunset to find some other lousy way to make a living.,
But … they left us with a symbol that survives — globally — to this day. I for one laugh when I hear Europeans refer to us as “cowboys,” because that’s what we are, down to our DNA.
It was us Cowboys who won WWI and WWII then rebuilt all of Europe via the Marshall Plan. When the North Korean/ Chinese commies were within weeks of fully conquering South Korea, it was us Cowboys who kicked their asses back to the 38th parallel. It was us Cowboys who stood the line during the Cold War, and eventually toppled the Soviets without firing a shot. And our Cowboys served their nation nobly in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Did they win? If enemy combatant body counts mean anything, they won 150:1.
We’re Cowboys still — I may disagree with virtually everything liberals stand for, but other than the college students, they ain’t cowering in the stables … they’re out there brawling with us conservatives, and in case no one’s noticed, they’re winning.
Will they ultimately win our currently-peaceful civil war of words and laws?
Maybe … but like I said, we’re all headed towards a Cowboy-level, all-you-can-eat, crap buffet. And when we’re all dining out of the same trough, maybe we’ll once again get back in the saddle, and push the Republic to greener pastures.
For those interested, Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? is available along with my other books on Amazon and BN.com. Books make great gifts, because they require reading — which might be something more Americans need to do.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Prioleau Alexander is a freelance writer, focusing mostly on politics and non-fiction humor. He is an international advocate for literacy and learning, and shows his commitment to the cause by reminding everyone that books make great gifts. He is the author of four books: ‘You Want Fries With That?,’ ‘Dispatches Along the Way,’ ‘Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?‘ and ‘They Don’t Call It The Submission Process For Nothing.’
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