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The Cowboy Way:
The cowboy as hero, David McCumber reminds us, is one of America's abiding myths. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood--even the ubiquitous Marlboro man--endure as symbols, perhaps because of our need to believe (in a technology-savvy, urbanized culture) that "cleaner country ... something rougher, less despoiled, harder to win" still exists.
At midlife, McCumber abandoned "corporate striving" in California and spent a year learning what it means to be a real cowboy at one of Montana's largest ranches. His unsentimental, gritty, yet evocative account defies and confirms our preconceptions. Cowboying, he quickly learns, has always meant backbreaking, isolating work: mending endless stretches of fence, weeks spent digging ditches, rousting livestock in subzero weather. But ranch life has not been immune to the times: today's cowboys choose four-wheel drive vehicles over horses, regularly deliver calves by cesarean section, and might as easily hold a degree in English as in agriculture.
Ultimately, McCumber reveals that the cowboy is alive and kicking in the West, his ethic defined by a firm belief in the value of hard work and an unshakable respect for the weather and the land. "Cowboys are heroes," he tells us, "but not of the Hollywood variety. Their heroism comes in small portions. John Wayne may have saved the stampeding herd in Red River, but in real life the herd is saved one calf at a time." --Svenja Soldovieri [via]