Gwen Peterson: Why do women love cowboys?
Ever wondered why women like cowboys? Not even women understand why, but it’s been ever thus. Might be because on a daily basis, a cowboy goes off into the world of cow-care on horses, four-wheelers and in pickups to deal with animals weighing more or less a thousand pounds. While yon cowboy doesn’t aim to get kicked, gored, snake-bit, bucked off or otherwise damaged, stuff happens. Those who work in the food-on-the hoof ag industries fall way high on the dangerous job scale. It’s John Wayne on a daily basis and what female can honestly resist that kind of charisma? So, annually, starry-eyed women from Metropolises come west to shop…for a cowboy. Not that they put that yearning in cold, thoughtful planning. No, it has more to do with hormones being in charge.
Otherwise intelligent women, often college educated, come Out West from all parts of the compass. Once arrived, they look around and see men they visualize as John Wayne types – lean, hard-muscled, tall-hatted and athletic — at least when horseback. In bygone days, with very little effort, a woman could pick the cowboy of her choice from a pretty big herd, since in those days men out-numbered women in the western population census.
In early days, before the spread of feed-store caps, cowboys always sported wide-brimmed, tall-crowned headgear making the wearer easy to spot without binoculars. Today’s puncher saves his “good” hat for special occasions such as his wedding or his funeral — whichever comes first.
In the old days, methodology for search and selection of a prime cowboy depended on the season. In spring, a gal could attend a branding where she could wrestle calves or help the cook. Either talent could spark interest in a puncher’s breastbone, but the lady had to be alert. She had to watch for subtle signs—as there’s no way Tall in the Saddle would let on an obvious interest in front of the other cowpokes. To do so would draw a firestorm of barbed taunts from his fellow punchers…sometimes leading to fisticuffs.
The better cowpoke pickin’s always (and this is still true) were found in summer during haying season. The technique was to locate a small town bar (best were communities of fewer than five-hundred) and show up on Saturday night. Any Saturday would do, but a spell of rain in mid-haying would for sure bring the boys to town. Considering most of these hay hands had been sweating ten hours a day for sometimes weeks without a break, their testosterone had increased to near explosive levels. In certain lights, small mushroom clouds could be detected floating above high-crowned, going-to-town hats.
A woman stepping through the portals of the bar had only to sashay to a convenient barstool and sit down. Instantly, a drink of her choice would appear before her, for which she did not pay.
“That’s on Clyde,” the bartender might say. “Or Clint or Lefty or Wade or…”
Competitive cowpokes kept the beverages coming. In no time, she could have had a dozen drinks lined up before her from a dozen different punchers. The smart woman let the libations pile up and mostly sipped from a tall glass of ice water. As the evening wore on, Ms. Looking for Mr. Cowboy would be invited to dance to the jukebox tunes. Here again, she had to be very, very alert. Too much conversation on her part could confuse the fellow. Too little and she might not even learn his name. A shy puncher tended to hold his dance partner at least twelve inches away from any body contact except the hands, so when he suddenly drew her close, she would know that love was blossoming.
In the fall season, the cowboy-seeking woman paid attention to roundup and shipping. If she had her own horse, she might let it be known she was available to help gather cattle. She might volunteer to help sort and weigh critters at the stockyards. Even better, she’d gain points if she served coffee and cookies off the tailgate of her pickup or the trunk of her car….
The foregoing are a few of the basic methods women employed when shopping for a cowboy in the Olden Days…
Advice for today’s woman: Nothing has changed… Enjoy… ❖
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.