Recently, I began watching the TV series Yellowstone, the Kevin Costner ode to a dysfunctional, Montana ranching family. The show is fascinating, disturbing, and beautifully shot with a memorable cast of characters.
While the give and take involved in trying to keep the land occupies most of the screen time, there are also scenes that portray the daily lives of ranch hands, who, as one might expect, are cowboys.
That grown men live in bunk houses, and share their meals, and rope, and ride in this day and age amazes me. Let me say here that I was raised in New Jersey, where the only cowboys I saw were on TV and in the movies, all of which harkened back to earlier times.
Which brings me to my introduction to Phoenix, Arizona when I moved to that western city for a sportscasting job.
“Let’s go out,” my new friend Abby said.
“Where do you want to go?”
“Denim & Diamonds.” She grinned.
“What’s that?” I asked, trying to figure out what to wear.
Later that night, Abby and I entered a huge dance hall unlike anything I’d ever seen. Country music blared. A huge group of men and women swelled on the wooden dance floor. My mouth fell open for a number of reasons.
First, the men were all dressed like cowboys: long-sleeve, white button downs open at the neck, spotless, Saturday-night cowboy hats, buffed boots, and tight blue jeans held up with belts showcasing fancy silver buckles.
I giggled. “What’s with the costumes?”
“The cowboy thing. Is this a special night that they’re all dressed like that?”
Abby tilted her head. “No, they’re dressed like that because they are cowboys.”
“No they’re not,” my skeptical, Jersey self pointed out.
“OK, maybe a few aren’t cowboys in their day jobs,” Abby countered. “But many of them are.”
“I stared at the center of the room and was equally stunned by all the men dancing. Tight steps in those cute, pointy boots, as they sashayed around the room, twirling smiling women. I’d grown up in the days when men didn’t dance and girls were left to shimmy and shake on their own while the guys watched and hugged the walls.
I couldn’t get over the feeling that I was on a movie set. I sat at a high table bordering the dance floor and sipped a beer. The men moved expertly, line dancing with their thumbs hooked in their belts. I was struck by the fact that they were wearing their hats indoors, which I assumed was rude. I’ve since learned that cowboy-hat decorum can be quite complicated.
According to Bernard Hat’s “A Guide to Cowboy Hat Etiquette,”
- Any time you enter a building, the hat should come off.
- If it is an informal occasion you may put it back on but for a formal occasion it should stay off.
- When sitting down at a table for a meal, the hat should come off unless there is nowhere to safely lay the hat.
- When sitting down at a counter for a meal, the hat can stay on.
- Out on the range however, keep your hat on while you eat. If you take your hat off, another wrangler might step on it or spill food into the rim.
I’m not sure where hats stand in regard to dancing. The gents whirling around the floor had theirs on. And I didn’t want to quibble, because they were all so dang cute.
Before you scoff at dancing cowboys, understand that they are very popular. Note that The Cowboy Dating Service, Cowboy Soul Mate, and Cowboy Chat City are just a few of the dating sites devoted to those who aspire to find their cowboy match.
And now, don’t be jealous, because I do have my own such man, though it’s been a long time since he was out on the range seeking lost cows. My sweetie pie spent two years working on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma. When I met him he still had his boots and cowboy hat. Admittedly, Ryan’s turn in the saddle was a long time ago, but I’m guessing once a cowboy always a cowboy.
Anne Montgomery’s novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other? The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.