Cowboy (n): A man who knows which way a cow will move before she does but is unsure which drawer contains his socks
A man who can shoe the worst horse in the cavvy by himself on his day off but can’t change a lightbulb
See also: vagabond, daredevil, adventurer, hero, prankster, hell raiser, and true believer
Cowboy (adj): To be considered cool, acceptable, or approved by a cowboy. Examples: Packing salt on a mule instead of a four-wheeler; wearing buck stitched leggings; or range branding a 2-year-old maverick bull. Basically, anything that involves doing a job the hardest way possible. Bonus points for tasks that carry an elevated chance of personal injury or require an inordinate amount of skill.
Cowboy (v): To perform any of the multitude of tasks that a cowboy does throughout the course of his day’s work. These include gathering cattle, branding calves, shoeing horses, and starting colts. These do NOT include fixing fence, operating a tractor, or getting within 20 feet of a bale wagon.
“I’d rather cowboy than work in town, no matter how much an office job pays.”
“I’ve never done anything else besides cowboy.”
“Hey, son, catch your pony and tie a rope on your saddle. You’re finally old enough to come cowboy with me.”
He became a homeowner at age “old enough to go on the wagon” and has grown to prefer a rag house staked out on the desert to four walls and a solid roof ever since.
He uses horses for his job, but they’re not tools. They’re his friends, partners, comrades. He swings the rope and throws the loop, but they stop the cow.
He works 16-hour days on the regular but doesn’t get paid for overtime. On days off, he enters ranch rodeos and pays money to do his day job in an arena – only faster and with more snacks.
Don’t let these definitions of a cowboy limit your understanding of these men who ride and rope for their wages. Some cowboys are good, and some are not. A cowboy in the highest and best sense of the word is skilled with a horse, rope, and a cow, plus always takes his hat off when meeting a lady and never tells dirty jokes in mixed company. But, we’re talking about cowboys as actual people, not unicorns, so all inevitably fall short of perfection.
The main thing to remember about cowboys is that they take care of cows. The degree to which they elevate their skills and improve their general character is up to each individual.
Just about like anything else in life.