Wearing a hat at the perfect angle, riding a horse as if he were born to the task, guiding cattle along the range, whipping up some campfire coffee, strumming a guitar as the embers die.
Nice picture, even though I know I’ve painted it based on cowboy portrayals in the movies — most notably The Horse Whisperer and Electric Horseman. Two characters as different as can be, but both undeniably cowboys. And both played by the inimitable, could-have-been-a-cowboy-if-he-wasn’t-an-actor Robert Redford. Sigh.
What’s with the cowboy crush? It’s something about the idea of man versus frontier, man against the elements, man looking really good with the sun on his shoulders and those perfectly worn cowboy boots.
Then there’s the charm (again, in the movies). That kind of yes-ma’am, aw-shucks, simmering quality that has been tempting the most sophisticated city girls forever.
And therein lies the rub. Because as any city girl worth her pumps can tell you (just ask Annie, played by Kristin Scott Thomas in The Horse Whisperer, or Jane Fonda’s Hallie in Electric Horseman), no matter how handsome the cowboy, how rugged his looks, how much he loves his horse — cowboys just don’t like the city. And most city girls, while they may heart cowboys completely, need to live in a place where buses and taxis — not buffalo — roam.
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys, the song goes. It’s a hard and lonely life. But, my heroes have always been cowboys, another song says. And that’s the conflict.
So while cowboys from Big Sky country will always have a tiny place in my heart, a certain city boy from LA-via-NY has my whole heart.
And he won’t ride off into the sunset.
ⓒ 2016 Claudia Grossman