Celebrate National Day of the Cowboy: Saturday, July 23

The annual National Day of the Cowboy celebration is set for this Saturday, July 23rd. Learn more about this new initiative to preserve cowboy culture.

From small towns to big cities, Northeast to Southwest and everywhere in between, communities all across America will be celebrating this Saturday as the 10th annual National Day of the Cowboy kicks off. The organization in charge of promoting the event is banking on state and federal legislature to make this holiday an officially-recognized day, rather than the annual resolution that’s passed early each summer every year. Regardless of the political and governmental ramifications, there are hundreds of celebrations taking place across the country to honor the both frontier and cowboy history as well as the surviving spirit of western culture. ┬áThe celebration also includes honoring the pioneer culture that settled the American West.

A cowboy on horseback, 1880s. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A cowboy on horseback, 1880s.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

While many celebrants will simply be donning a cowboy hat and boots and strutting around town with a fake six-shooter and costume spurs reminiscent of a TV western, the National Day of the Cowboy organization reminds us that a true cowboy (or, honestly, just a good person) simply keeps to this code, compiled from a history of various codes and standards of morals across the West:

  1. Live each day with honesty and courage.
  2. Take pride in your work. Always do your best.
  3. Stay curious. Study hard and learn all you can.
  4. Do what has to be done and finish what you start.
  5. Be tough, but fair.
  6. When you make a promise, keep it.
  7. Be clean in thought, word, deed and dress.
  8. Practice tolerance and understanding of others.
  9. Be willing to stand up for what’s right.
  10. Be an excellent steward of the land and its animals.

Cowboys were not just an aspect of the Wild West–the cowboy culture was actually adopted by frontier cattlemen from the vaquero culture of the original Spanish settlers, including aspects of their language (think words like lariat and bronco) to the style of riding their horses (today’s modern reined cow horse competition is as close as you’ll get to the original Spanish way of training and riding a cow horse.) Distinct cowboy subcultures can be traced in four different traditions, including California, Texas, Florida and Hawaii (a deceptively large part of Hawaii is ranch land.) Numerous other parts of the country contained cattle ranches, even as far north and east as Long Island. The cowboy way is truly part of this nation’s history and culture.

Many celebrations of National Day of the Cowboy include displays of western art, cowboy poetry readings or contests, chuck wagon cookouts, parades and demonstrations as well as good-natured competitions, such as New Hampshire’s single-action shootout. Many towns will include a strong equestrian element, from a horse-drawn antique wagon parade in Jamestown, New York to a massive celebration at the American Quarter Horse Museum in Amarillo, Texas. The last weekend of July is also popular for county and state fairs and many such fairs will be adding National Day of the Cowboy festivities to their regular agricultural programs.

Even if you don’t ride western, this is a holiday worth celebrating–any of us accustomed to the equestrian life can relate to the cowboy code and culture and a life centered on horseback. Celebrating the holiday for all of us can be as simple as saddling up and going for a nice long ride to honor the cowboys and pioneers that kept the horse as a vital part of our culture.

Look for a celebration near you and learn more about the holiday at the National Day of the Cowboy website.

Go Cowboys.

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