May 28, 2015

Today in History: The birth of the cowboy (1902)

John RobsonResident Historian
 

The newspapers didn’t report it at the time. But on May 28 back in 1902, the cowboy was born as an American cultural icon when Owen Wister’s The Virginian was published.

And by shaping Americans’ self-image, the world’s view of their country, and the aspirations of millions of American boys to grow up brave, tough, honourable, laconic and deadly it had more impact on the United States and the world than any number of self-important windbags who managed to grab headlines at the time, and even many major events that did deserve attention when they happened.

 

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Comments
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commented 2015-06-03 00:23:33 -0400
Thanks for the nice little homage to the cowboy and the recognition of such an important milestone – The Virginian – that has mostly gone unnoticed.
Unfortunately, the iconic image is under fire today along with other foundational images and ideals, like Christianity and Christian moral principles, education and it’s institutions, the government, marriage…
The masculine characteristics celebrated and finely illustrated by the written and filmed westerns, like strength, integrity, courage, independence, forthrightness and honesty, not to mention a good left hook, shooting and riding skills, if they are not outright ridiculed by the sociopathic cultural elite and their intellectually challenged sycophants, seem to have all fallen by the wayside in this modern age.
Ang Lee’s criminal attempt at the homo-eroticization of the western, and whatever else passes for modern film and their social engineering attempt at the emasculation of the modern male, and a lack of western writers – or published western writers – will not kill the western or it’s heroes.
commented 2015-05-30 07:06:56 -0400
Thanks John, I needed a little cowboy break like this. I instantly think of Waylon, Willie and Johnny, and of course, Bruce Willis’ line in the Die Hard movies, “yippie ki-yay mother fu*ker”. Thank you Peter, you get credit for that.
Since it’s in my head right now anyway, “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys…”
Don’t let ‘em pick guitars or drive them old trucks, Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such…" I sometimes regret heeding that advice, as a small part of me still longs for the simpler life of the cowboy.
But moving along, The Virginian is a fantastic novel, a progenitor of an entirely new western-cowboy genre of American literature, which in turn spawned multiple sub- and cross-genres that are highly prevalent even in contemporary, 21st century media. It’s also a pretty good read, fyi.
commented 2015-05-29 23:18:57 -0400
I watched Brokeback Mountain, it is one of my biggest regrets. I am still trying to unsee it. The Cowboy story is steeped in tradition and rich history. I am a bit of a cowboy movie fanatic. I love the unfettered logic of a cowboy story. You always know where you stand . There are good guys, bad guys, and the cowboys who know the difference, and act on it. Love it. Thanks John, you do a mighty fine “howdy partner”.
commented 2015-05-29 20:25:19 -0400
Yippie Kay Yay mother f___
commented 2015-05-28 17:10:33 -0400
(Sung to the tune of Streets of Laredo)

He wore a pink stetson
His chaps showed his bum cheeks
His vest was all rhinestones in a rainbow array
His boots were white snakeskin
His cologne was Anteus
For a moment I wondered if perhaps he was…….(now don’t jump to any conclusions here, after all he just might be a metrosexual)

I see by your outfit…that you are a cowboy…..(……..better check my watch to see how close to midnight it is)
The stuff heroes are made of Willie Nelson would say
So I asked Wille Nelson if he’d seen Brokeback Mountain
Willie snarled “SHUT YER CAKE HOLE OR I’LL BLOW YOU AWAY”………:-)
commented 2015-05-28 14:38:02 -0400
If that’s not a rhetorical question, Anonymous, I think the response could safely be worded that this cowboy would be befuddled and confused, and chafing at all his restrictions…
commented 2015-05-28 13:16:13 -0400
the iconic John Wayne…polite, kind, tough, get to the point, what would this imagery cowboy think of our politically correct world today?