I’ve been raised around cowboys my whole life. It’s a generational thing. My granddad, Ed Craig, built the first rodeo grounds in Bruneau, ID, with the help of my Dad, Jim, and Uncle Bob. Granddad used to rope and bulldog (steer wrestle). Bob rode bulls, saddle broncs, and bareback. Granddad and Bob were both also rodeo judges. My dad managed horse and cattle ranches all his life. He trained and showed horses in California for years. He also raised, trained and sold cow dogs.
Cowboy is not just a word describing a man who wears a hat, boots, and pair of Wranglers. It’s not just a man who rides in the rodeo circuit either. I don’t believe it is even just a word for someone who makes his living on a ranch. I’ve known a lot of people who worked, lived on, and owned ranches that I don’t consider cowboys. I also know a few cowboys who now make their living in town.
Although all the above can be part of a cowboy, to me the word produces deeper images. My mind flashes back and I can see my Granddad digging in his flower bed. My Grandma Odessa used to have beautiful flowers. After she was gone, Granddad still always had a beautiful flower bed. Now I’m not sure if he kept up her tradition, or it was his love all along!
I see my Uncle Bob playing with all us kids. He was always full of pranks, and seemed more like one of us than an adult. I think he will always be a kid; he’s just in a grown up body!
When I look back in time at my dad, I just see love. Dad always had time for Pat and me. We followed him around while he worked, whether it was feeding cows, irrigating or riding. He was always there for us, and still is.
My husband Mike is also a cowboy. He never rodeoed, but he was born and raised on the family ranch at Nye, MT, which we came back to and he ran for twenty years. He also worked on, and then managed the U3 ranch in Wells, NV for 17 years.
All the cowboys in my life have a common thread or two. They are hard-working men. They live a life based on honesty, integrity, and kindness. They love their families, dogs, horses, and cattle. They love their lifestyle and their land…but would never value them more than their wife, or children.
Some may see a man wearing a hat and boots on CMT singing a great country song and call him a cowboy. ( And there are some of those, George Strait being one.) But cowboy is a special word to me and belongs to those who can fill the boots of those special few.