How Do You Become A Cowboy?

I didn’t mosey into Fort Worth on the back of a horse nor did I sashay up to the first bar I came to and order a shot of whiskey, but I wanted to.

That is because I arrived during the 117th Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo and I came across real cowboys. Yep, the real deal.

The guys in the hats and boots weren’t wearing them for show, they had them on because it is what they wear. I stared at a few of “them fellers” and began to wonder about some things.

How Do You Become A Cowboy?

It might sound silly to some people but I wondered how you become a cowboy? Are you born into it? I would imagine that in some situations that would be how it works. Your family owns a ranch and you go into the family business.

But that doesn’t cover everyone. There have to be others who aren’t born into the business and choose to go in. Now I might be demonstrating my own ignorance, but I am not aware of a cowboy college or university where you can earn a degree.

To the best of my knowledge you can’t get a BA or BS in Branding, Ranching or Herding Cattle. Or maybe you can I just don’t know about it, wouldn’t be the first time I found a subject that I didn’t know much about.

The Lost Art of Reading Comprehension

Sometimes the answers aren’t found in books.

Now I recognize these are really the same questions I posed in Are They Destined for Dinner or Display? But I am asking/sharing them again because I am still thinking about them.

My kids keep asking similar questions and my daughter wants to know if she is going to have become a cowgirl.

And it occurs to me that so much of this is tied into The Value of Reference Points and what seems exotic to some really isn’t to others. It is like when people ask me to tell them stories about fraternity life or things I did in Israel.

Sometimes I see this far away look in their eyes and I know they are expecting me to come up with something crazy and amazing and I tell them a story that is run of the mill.

Or should I say it is run of the mill to me because I think of it as being ordinary and mundane.

I have to imagine that it is no different from the cowboys, that is assuming they call themselves cowboys. Maybe they don’t. Maybe that term just makes me sound like a tourist.


After watching all of those guys roam around the city I have to concede I have had some interest in acquiring my own hat. I remember being a kid and wanting to get one and I thought a bit about it, but I didn’t do it.

Part of it was because I couldn’t decide if I really wanted a cowboy hat or if I preferred to pick up a nice Fedora so I could become Indiana Wilner.  Of course I haven’t had the benefit of having movies made about me or a cool theme song so wearing the Fedora might actually cause people to call me Rabbi instead of Indiana.

It is not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is a much different image than I was thinking of.

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  3. Cynthia March 1, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Hi Josh,

    Growing up in Texas, you have to own a good pair of cowboy boots, jeans, and a hat. I have lived in the UK for the last three years so I will have to say that I have only pulled out the cowboy boots a couple of times. But I do look forward to get back to Texas so that it is fashionable to wear cowboy and a cute dress. And I forgot about an awesome hat. I think that is a little cowboy or cowgirl in all of us. Hope you find a great hat soon.

    • Josh March 2, 2013 at 8:29 pm

      Hi Cynthia,

      Moving from Texas to the UK is certainly a bigger move than I made, I bet you have some good stories. I am looking forward to finding a good hat, don’t have one yet but soon…

  4. Tim Bonner February 19, 2013 at 12:51 am

    Hey Josh

    I always wanted to be a cowboy when I was a boy and I don’t imagine there’s many of them in the UK!

    Definitely get the hat.

  5. Chris Edgar February 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Thanks, I definitely enjoyed this. What occurred to me is that, in our society, where it may seem like the safest route to do something that requires degrees and titles so that everyone “takes us seriously,” it’s inspiring to know that there are still people, like the cowboys, who blaze their own trail.

  6. Lori Gosselin February 15, 2013 at 11:23 am

    “I have had some interest in acquiring my own hat.” You Go Josh! When in Rome and all that! My uncle came back from a stay in Texas wearing cowboy boots. He said they are the most comfortable form of footwear! But my nephew says they are worn to protect you from the snakes. Are the boots next on your shopping list?

  7. Justin February 13, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Hi Josh,
    If I ever move to Dallas I will certainly sport the boots and hat. I guess growing up watching the TV show Dallas made me a fan of Cowboy hats, boots, oil, and money.

    Either way, when in Rome do as the Romans do.

    Take Care.

  8. Mary Stephenson February 13, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Hi Josh

    Well good grief! Buy the cowboy hat, it will go with the cowboy boots! Stomp on it and kick it around in a dusty field and then it should like you have had it for awhile.

    I don’t know, are they called cowboys or is it cow hands or farm hands? I seen a few over the years in different places, where you really knew that was there job, not just dressing up the part. They looked a little hard and worn out for all the hard work they do. Definitely not the attire right out of the Western wear shop. They probably weren’t as old as they looked either.

    Have a good week.

    • Josh February 13, 2013 at 6:45 pm

      Hi Mary,

      That is a lot of money to spend on a hat I am going to have to stomp on, but there is something to be said for trying to appear to be authentic.

      Some of the guys I saw clearly were younger than they appeared from a distance, all that work outdoors helps to age them a little bit.

      Hope you are doing well.

  9. Julie Barrett February 13, 2013 at 3:11 am

    From my four year stint in Austin I am pretty sure there is this really big thing called “Ag school” but that might just have been a rumor 🙂

    Regarding hats, the thing to know is that it cannot be new. It has to be worn in for at least a year before it’s allowed in public. I would definitely go cowboy. Fedora looks way too much like the guys who walk the streets on Saturday in Boca.

  10. Vidya Sury February 12, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    I am pretty sure the Fedora will look cool on you.

    By the way, the word “cowboy” always triggers nostalgia for me – I am a huge fan of Frederick Christian/Oliver Strange’s Sudden series. I am desperately trying to find the set.

    🙂 Cheers!

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