How do you define cowboy?
August 16, 2005
With the fading of family ranching in the Roaring Fork Valley, are we seeing the last of the cowboys?It depends on whether you consider a rancher to be a cowboy – and that depends on who’s talking.Bob Perry, 87, a rancher all his adult life, said, “I’d like to think of myself as a cowboy.”He’s an excellent rider and roper, skills polished on the Mt. Sopris Hereford Ranch south of Carbondale, where Perry has ranched since 1942. He competed in roping at rodeos but admitted to avoiding bronco-riding at all costs.Bill Fales, Perry’s son-in-law and a rancher since the early 1970s, said he doesn’t consider himself to be a cowboy. The term invokes someone who rides the range on a horse, doing whatever is necessary for the benefit of the herd.Perry agreed that a true cowboy didn’t do everything that a rancher is required to do, like endless fiddling with irrigation ditches.Despite ranching for 44 years, 76-year-old Mike Strang dismisses the idea of himself being a cowboy.”No,” he said without hesitation. “I can ride. I can rope, badly.”Strang’s ranch manager, Max Macdonell, 48, considers himself a cowboy. He competes in several local rodeos as a roper, but that’s only part of the qualification.”There’s a mind-set of, if you can’t do it from the back of a horse, it’s not worth doing,” he said. “I would rather be on a horse than a tractor.”One thing is for certain. Any of these guys can lay claim to the cowboy label with more credibility than most of the pretenders and wannabes.