American Cowboy

by , Sep 5, 2007, 1:45 PM
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I am an indoor girl. Cowboys are outdoor men. Therein, lies the intrigue. They ride horses, wear hats and enter rodeos. All I know about rodeos I learned from "The Misfits," while my cowboy knowledge is limited to the mythology of the Old West. They were cast as rugged men who could steer cattle along the Chisholm Trail, stage a gunfight in Dodge City and still cook a tasty meal over a campfire. Poster boys for the do-it-yourself movement. Historically, they were an ethnically diverse lot -- black, white, Hispanic and American Indian -- and their heyday was post-Civil War. But for modern cowpokes, there's American Cowboy.

This colorful bimonthly, based in Boulder, Colo., is a lifestyle pub that celebrates cowboy culture and history -- past and present. It's a set piece -- and the department titles -- "Frontiers," "Trailblazers," Stirring the Embers" -- neatly fit into its larger goal -- portraying the spirit of the West to Western enthusiasts. In short, anyone who ever saw "Bonanza" or secretly longs to stride the mesa in hand-stitched leather boots. Of course, I don't see myself riding a horse, a skyscraper on legs, but the scenery can't be beat. And for armchair cowboys, this is required reading.

Editor Jesse Mullins, Jr. says the cowboy world "values authority and the carrying on of tradition and revering the ways of our elders and forebears." He could almost be Jewish -- except for the authority part. Many of us revel in recreational arguing, which is a big distraction during a stampede. Still, Kinky Friedman, best-selling mystery writer and former lead singer of Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jew Boys, once noted a striking similarity: Both wear their hats indoors. Meaning, I suspect, that observant Jews, like serious cowboys, do it 24/7.

Fortunately, for the rest, there's American Cowboy. It delivers a magazine that speaks to 21st-century pardners, offering art, travel, lifestyle and pop culture. Hey, it's even got a MySpace page! Maybe Willie Nelson doesn't want your babies to grow up to be cowboys, but a quick glace at AC might change his mind. When it comes to corralling satisfaction, these guys giddyup.

Men like Dale Woodard, a rodeo clown and champion roper, and Will Lowe, a title holder who broke the single-season bareback-riding record in 2006, earning $280,227. Cover boy Brad Paisley is a country-music star from West Virginia, who loves what he calls "cow jazz," giving his songs Western swing. Of special note is the centennial birthday salute to multi-talented cowboy singer Gene Autry, a shrewd investor who earned a spot on the Forbes 400. Most impressive, he enlisted during World War II; Roy Rogers and John Wayne got deferments.

For Western lovers, American Cowboy is like a folksy travelogue -- whether it's a story about trail riding in the Black Hills of South Dakota or a few days at the Sombrero Ranch, where visitors realize their cowboy fantasies on the Great American Horse Drive. But it's also a chronicler of the cowboy, circa 2007 -- which means he's often glued to his cell phone and, like professional bull rider L.J. Jenkins, conducts a breeding business online. If he favors award-winning wildlife artists, he's paying top dollar.

I'm guessing the California owners of the 2,100-square-foot Wyoming log home, profiled in "Riverside Retreat," paid a few doubloons, too. They dubbed it "Fishing Shack," but said shack has rugs bought in Kazakhstan, a stunning stone fireplace, cozy furnishings and borders a picturesque river. Also, the bar, conveniently located behind the denim couch, is stocked with wine and champagne. If this is roughing it, round me up.

While the Old West seemed tough and dangerous, the New West has upscale cuisine, distinct music and a nifty dress code. AC even has a poetry page, though I'm partial to a tried-and-true number: Don't try to understand 'em. Just rope, throw and brand 'em. Rawhide!


Published by: Active Interest Media
Frequency: Bimonthly
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