Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

RANCH MUSINGS: Time to rebrand the word cowboy?

I don’t think Netflix’s Yellowstone series helps raises the positive profile

Here is how the lyrics of a great song by Ed Bruce from 1975 goes:

Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys

Don’t let ‘em pick guitars and drive them old trucks

Make ‘em be doctors and lawyers and such

This popular country song came to mind when a bunch of mounted “cowboys” showed up in Coutts, Alberta to support the blockading of the US Canada Border.

Interestingly, the two main ranching organizations, the Alberta Beef Producers and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, both objected to the truckers’ actions much as the truckers’ own organization did.

Now maybe these cattlemen speaking for their own interests, could not condone any market (transportation across the border) disruption because live animals and food destined for consumers were involved.

Because Canadian ranchers produce more meat than we consume, “free trade” is critical.

Maybe the “cowboy” truckers need to look at the larger picture and see that they are denying other people’s version of freedom.

In the 1920s the name cowboy became to be associated with someone “reckless.” In Britain and Australia a cowboy was a tradesman whose work was shoddy and of questionable value, such as a cowboy plumber.

This derogatory association with the term described someone who is reckless or ignores potential risks or who heedlessly handles a sensitive or dangerous task.

In the Eastern US “cowboy” came to describe someone in the skilled trades who was operating without proper training or licence; or a fast or careless driver on the highway.

I am not sure about the origin of lyrics of this song —my research failed me—but people handling cows and horses (and other people!) might want to heed the need to keep the term cowboy (and cowgirl) respected particularly because reputation may just affect the marketing of the products cowboys are raising.

Historically, maybe it did not matter if the cowboy was a person able to be on this own, was rough and tough and “never stays home, always alone, even with someone they love” and “if he don’t die young, He’ll probably just ride away.”

The song goes on to say “..he’s not wrong, he’s just different and his pride won’t let him do things to make you think he’s right.”

There you go, perhaps it is time to re-brand “cowboy.”

I don’t think the Yellowstone television series helps raises the positive profile. I know the TV series is a spoof on the all-powerful rancher in the US west making them out to be mafia-like thugs with their own licence to kill when their family or land ( wild) is threatened by speculators or developers.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.

READ MORE: Ranch Musings: ‘Get bigger or get out.’ Really?


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