I learned a long time ago not to mess around with folks' individual reality, yet throughout my tumultuous existence on this here planet, I've often been asked by curious folk when presented with some image of myself the question: "Are you a REAL Cowboy"?
Ugh! I'm not sure why the question causes me to recoil with such annoyance. I waiver between lengthy explanations of how and why their question is rude and irrelevant to a terse brush-off to a kinder gentler response. I've been known without intentionally wanting to be rude, to ignore the question altogether. When the tone the question is presented with does not meet with my well brought up set of acceptable manners and public behavior, I've been tempted to answer the question with a question. "Well are you a real (insert adjective, ie woman, man, accountant, tourist, idiot, etc.)?
Usually, in the interest of world peace and universal acceptance as well as my personal environmental harmony, I opt for the soft answer my grandmother would've been proud to hear me use. "I'm not lucky enough to do it for a full-time living, but yes, I can do most of the things a REAL cowboy can do". I may go on to explain how I help my cousin and his family with their cattle operation and that I live on a farm.
I guess I may have mellowed as I've gotten older as I seldom analyze the motivation for the question anymore, which only served to upset the natural balance in my immediate present. Nor does it bother me as much, I'm guessing as I've gotten more comfortable with myself over the years.
I still chuckle when I hear my mainstream gay friends who's never set booted foot on grass taller than the city park make a disparaging comment like: "He can't be a REAL cowboy, betcha he's one of them drugstore kind". "Well puddin, how would you know?" Like deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck they stare back at me with a confused puckery look on their faces. I can't resist encouraging a restive mind to think and learn. Does he walk different or talk different? Do his duds give his status away? True a workin feller might carry himself different especially if he's used to being on the back of a horse, and most cowboys I know don't say a whole lot in a group of folks they're not accustomed to being around, and his clothing, even the Saturday-night go-to-town attire, might be a tad more of the "functional" variety rather than out of the "B" western movies I used to watch as a kid. Don't quite know why it is that folks that haven't ever been around things cowboy need to determine if it's real or not.
You see, looking for anything REAL is kind of an interesting useage of one's time. How will you truly know it's real, authentic, genuine? I'm reminded of the title and lyric of a Dan Seals song "All that glitters, is not gold". I doubt many but other cowboys could spot most REAL cowboys anyways. A cowboy wears clothing and accoutrements that tend to distinguish him from others, true, but I've been to a gay country bar and seen many handsome fellers dressed just like I am, some even better than me, so if you operate on the assumption that his duds will give him up.....I'd have to say get another clue. Wal~Mart probably has some for sale at a discount. We gay folk do seem to like dressing up and looking good, all starched and dirt and lint free. Hmmm....
So what is it, exactly, that would distinguish between the real and the not real? Besides the thought that creeps into my mind..."what difference does it make", what will you do with a real one versus a fake one? I wonder if the distinction of coming into contact with a "real" cowboy will somehow validate our own fantasy world desire to be "real" too. Hmm maybe this validation thing is worth a thought or two. Us gay folk do tend to feel better about ourselves when we can feel more apart of society as a whole, than when we remain stagnated in our very cliquish mainstream gay world. Maybe it's just the mistaken assumption that a "real" one is better than a "fake" one. But then if it's like my contention that it ain't so much something you can use your 5 senses to root out and it's more about what's in your heart.....I'm thinkin there's a ton more REAL cowboys out there than some might think or ever even be aware of.
Cowboys who are cowboys because it's how they make their living obviously do a few things that some of the rest of the world has little experience with, indeed, knowledge of. We ride horses, can throw a rope around the neck of a calf with wander lust, make sport and perform work with dangerous animals, fix bob-wire fence without gettin our clothes all torn (I'm still workin on this one), care for critters, explore a heifer's private parts to determine if she's preggers. Sometimes it ain't the heifer it's the bull we've got our arm in up past our elbow we're trying to get a semen test from. Real glamorous, huh? Especially if we been feedin em alfalfa recent. Talk about getting more than you bargained for! Kinda makes you want one of them environmental type coveralls the astronauts wear. Wonder if it comes in a nice shade of green so it don't leave any telltale evidence you been workin around poop?
Or maybe a "real" cowboy needs to do rodeo. Hmm, not being a fan of anything commercial, perhaps I'd best not go too far with this notion. Would it have to be professional rodeo, or just the play days they have all the time around where I live. Most of the fellers I enjoy being around the best are into the "fun" of things more than the competition. Sporting events tend to require that "competitive" thing that most folks take WAY outta proportion.
True, the cowboys I've been fortunate enough to know in my life are a better class of fellers overall than some of the rest of the folks I've known, but I've known some mighty nice folks who don't have the "duds" to align them properly with the high status of being a "real cowboy". They seem to understand the notion of good manners, respect, honesty, and a positive attitude. They're also purty good judges of character.
Are you a REAL cowboy? Guess I could just go with the "glass half full" way of thinking and be proud that it was a question worth asking of me.