Cowboys are timeless, symbolic icons of the American western culture. Scores of them lived, worked, and died on pastures and pristine landscapes, unfolding the “Manifest Density” foretold. Their hard livestock-oriented lifestyle was not for the faint of heart, yet even today, we cannot help but evoke images of their endeavours. So, is it all just a fuzzy echo of the times long gone? Well, many people announce the big comeback of the Wild West, but I would argue that although brushed aside, it never truly went away.
Blast from the past
Few figures have had such a profound impact on American culture as cowboys did. The mythologization started back in the 1800s with dime novels and Wild West shows. Legendary towns like Tombstone, Arizona, also helped in creating the myth of a cowboy as we know it today. But, until twentieth-century media came, the mannerism and fashion of the cowboys/cowgirls were not promoted on a grand scale.
Namely, when Hollywood glitz and glamour were thrown into the mix, historical narrative took a backseat. A few powerful myths were created. People started believing that cowboys are of American origin, which is false. Moreover, they got an impression that settlers engaged in constant skirmishes with the natives and that bank-robbing outlaws ruled the show. All these notions are inaccurate accounts of the real state of affairs.
Nevertheless, romanticised cowboys in classic movies struck a chord with people. Movies like High Noon, 3:10 To Yuma, Dollars Trilogy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and the Magnificent Seven have captured the imagination of the whole generation and launched actors like John Wayne into the star-studded pantheon.
A new lease of life
But, what is often overlooked is that the Wild West culture is alive and kicking even today. Pockets of true country life persist all over the States. Countless ghost towns are open for tourism and some movie ranches are still in operation. There is no shortage of attractions, museums, themed bars and parks oozing the charm of the bygone. Cody, Cheyenne, Casper, and Jackson Hole deserve honourable mentions as popular pilgrimage spots.
Beyond that, we can observe present-day culture through the lenses of gaming. Video games like Red Dead Redemption authentically recreate the Wild West experience to the smallest details, while online casino games tap into the gambling and the dream of easy wealth. The popular Dead or Alive video slot, for example, combines the elements of bounty hunting, gold prospecting, and chance to earn some real money along the way. What is that if not a craving for the Wild West life to come true?
Finally, Wild West survives through clothing, goods consumption, music tastes, and recreation habits of people. They still buy bandanas, lassos, and hats and listen to country music more than ever. This is to say that one does not have to live a ranching lifestyle to be a cowboy or a cowgirl. It is not even required of you to set your foot on the same soil that authentic cowboys walked on. Across the world, people are finding innovative ways to capture the ever-wandering spirit of the old west.
Immortal and bulletproof Cowboys are a staple of American culture, role models of a revered and glamorised lifestyle. As such, they are much more than some dusty relic of the past. So, whether you want to venture outside the big city life to brave the wild frontier or get a taste of cowboy tradition, you are in luck. In the era of towering skyscrapers, the digital revolution, and turbo consumerism, cowboys and cowgirls are rare and all the more precious. Consider yourself invited to unleash that feral drive within.