Or Not So Happy Day of the American Cowboy

Reason #1 I love the movie cowboy so much

He (and now more and more she) is fictional.

That’s why they’re great heroes.


  • don’t massacre a tribe’s women and children in surprise attacks unless they go through deep soul questioning and soul searching (which they should, goddammit)

  • don’t shoot up a town like thugs unless it’s for comic effect

  • don’t get super drunk and beat women unless they’re villains

  • do look good on screen.

The real-deal cowboy is sexy, sure, and works harder than most people in a daily grind.

But the historic cowboy wasn’t as pretty, as honorable, or as ethical as today’s buff rodeo riders and movie stars.

unless they got all duded up for photographs for Ma

And that’s why I read and reread a commentary about the National Day of the American Cowboy on Newspaper Rock: Where Native America Meets Pop Culture, which stripped the sage-colored nostalgia from a few brutal truths: The cowboys/inhabitants/policy makers of of the American West of the 1800s tended to be racist, treaty-breaking, buffalo-decimating folk. The push into the continent in the name of Manifest Destiny destroyed cultures and environments and Americans still can’t accept that .

And even my celluloid fantasies get melted into toxic chemical soup. The Senate resolution declaring July 24 as National Day of the American Cowboy reads: Whereas the cowboy is a central figure in literature, film, and music and occupies a central place in the public imagination; Whereas the cowboy is an American icon…

Newspaper Rock’s blogger writes: I’ll agree with that much. Unfortunately, what America stands for is the rugged individualist who takes what he wants without regard for others. In other words, the libertarian, the greedy capitalist, or the conquering “hero.”

(Dang, he’s right. As in cowboy diplomacy, cowboy bankers, and cowboy politicians)

I always chose to be the “Indian” when we played “Cowboy and Indians” on suburban lawns. Looks like I was on the right track back then.

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