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Why We Cowboy

The Cowboy Way
January 4, 2022
Ridin’ For The Brand
January 18, 2022
I've been a passionate, devoted motorcycle-rider for more than sixty years; mostly that's been on Harleys which I've ridden both for pleasure and for pay. There's an old saying among Harley Davidson motorcycle enthusiasts. It goes like this: "If I have to explain, you wouldn't understand". As I've often stated before, I'm not a real cowboy and never earned my keep doing the hard and skilled work that cowboys do. But I am called, through my poetry and, hopefully my walk, to be a representative of the life, values and the culture that I'm honored to promote and preserve. Maybe I should have some cards made up with that old Harley-answer on it. I would give them to cowboys and cowgirls to hand out when someone asks them why they do what they do.

Why We Cowboy

My sister wanted me home for Christmas
So I drove my truck down to Denver last year
To spend a relaxin' week with her family
Enjoyin' home cookin’ and holiday cheer

Being single without other kin
My sister is extra special to me
I mostly shy from big cities
But I sucked-it-up to go visit Leigh

I'd gone out shopping for her kids
When I decided to stop for a brew
At some honky tonk along the way
Seein' I had nothin' much else to do

I could feel eyes on me at the bar
As I was ponderin' in my suds
I wondered if stoppin' had been a mistake
The way she was eyein' me and my duds

"Hey, are you a real Cowboy? ",
The gawker brazenly asked of me
"Why yes ma'am I certainly am
Reckon I'm 'bout as Cowboy as can be”

"Does that mean you live on a ranch
And ride horses all day long?"
"Well that's an over-simplification ma'am
If that's your only view then you'd be wrong"

"I hope you don't find me intrusive
But I've a question to ask of you
I'm guessing it's hard work but doesn't pay much
What makes you cowboys do what you do?"

I grinned at her shakin' my head
And takin' my first good look
She was mighty easy on the eyes
I found myself wonderin' if she could cook

It's a question I'd been asked before
And here it was proddin' again
"I'm goin' to the juke box”, I said
"I'll be back and answer you then”

Guess I was feelin' a mite ornery
I dropped a quarter and punched up Willy
Singin' of babies and warnin's to mamas
How was I gonna answer this filly?

"Well ma'am I'm not sure I can fully explain
Why we cowboys do what we do
No offense but if I have to spell it out
There's likely no understandin' for you"

I decided to tell her about a time
During calvin' season last spring
When I'd come upon a dead cow
And her new calf that was bawling

Normal in Montana at that time of year
There was snow still on the ground
That calf wouldn't a'made it
But Buddy and I turned things around

We'd set that bull calf over the pommel
Then me and my bay took him to the herd
And we got him mothered up
City-Girl studied me but never said a word

"That's just one example ma'am
Of how a cowboy earns his pay
We work hard on the wide open range
Where it actually can be cloudy all day"

“Ain't nobody ever cowboyed for pay
Leastways not if you’re talkin' cash money
But livin' the life makes me grin
And so doggone rich it just ain't funny”

"Sometimes my hat is the only shade
And my horse my only companion
As I search the brush and ravines
Or push a stray steer out of a canyon"

"Much more than in the bunkhouse
Some seasons we sleep mostly on the ground
Whether snow or rain or bakin' heat
But each day's a bounty if you look around"

"Have you watched the sun clear the horizon
Sittin' a saddle above a sleepin' herd
When the only noise you can hear are your thoughts
Or the hungry screech of a breakfast huntin' bird?"

“To the essentials of life that matter
Cowboyin' keeps me well connected
A man doesn't really need much
Other than to look in the mirror respected”

“So, you're right of course
The paycheck itself is purty small
But livin' free in God’s glory a horseback
Well, that's His special gift and my blessed call”

by Rik Goodell

© 2022. All rights reserved

I continue to be grateful for the generosity of the Price family in agreeing to allow me to post a copy of this painting alongside my work. See more of this artist's work at

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