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Cowboy Culture USA: Myths and Realities

by Laurel Lundstrom | Spring 2006

Educated on the east coast, George W. Bush affects the aura of the west. Under a five-gallon hat, Bush greets world leaders at his 1600-acre ranch in Crawford, Texas. Sometimes in tall leather boots, he listens to briefings from his cabinet members. Last summer, Bush signed a law that celebrates the symbolism, designating an official Day of the American Cowboy. The bill was introduced by Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY), a rancher, who stated:

“Cowboys were not only integral in settling the West and laying the foundation for America as we know it, but they continue to play an important role in the fabric of our country. Their contributions enrich our communities, cultivate our businesses and strengthen our families every day. The American Cowboy represents those aspects of American life we hold dear: independence, freedom and responsibility. In Wyoming, the Cowboy is not only a legend of the Old West, but an important piece of everyday life. For these reasons, I introduced a resolution designating July 23, 2005, and July 22, 2006, as National Day of the American Cowboy. It is time for the American Cowboy to be recognized.”

Senator Thomas leaves out a few important realities. Today’s ranchers are not independent and responsible; they enjoy a constant flow of government largesse. By commemorating the history of ranching, this recognition trumpets a business that decimates the landscape, while siphoning land, money and resources from the people.

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