For generations, the iconic image of the cowboy has stood as a symbol of pride.
Former President George W. Bush once said, "We celebrate the cowboy as a symbol of the grand history of the American West. The cowboy's love of the land and love of the country are examples for all Americans."
Saturday, July 28, will officially serve as the National Day of the Cowboy.
In the past eight years, 11 of the 50 states - Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming - have passed resolutions celebrating the contribution of the cowboy and cowgirl to America's culture and heritage.
Anyone interested in helping to organize a campaign in their state, or for a list of official celebrations, can log onto www.nationaldayofthecowboy.com.
For most, it's a way of life, while others think of it as an attitude or a spirit of the western way of life. A lot of the time, it's a combination of ideas, so in honor of this year's National Day of the Cowboy, several of the PBR's cowboys talked about what it means for them to be cowboys in 2012.
Jerome Robinson: It's what I wanted to be since I was a little kid. I wanted to be a cowboy since the days of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. It's been fun. Not too many people get to grow up and live a dream, and do what they wanted to since they were a kid, so I think that's probably the biggest thing. There are all sorts of different descriptions of a cowboy, but I guess a guy that works with animals and does it on his own terms.
Cody Lambert: It means something different in 2012 than it did in 1912, and it's probably related more these days to an attitude and a frame of mind, although there still is an occupation and a lifestyle. You just don't see them as often, and they don't get as much attention, but there are real cowboys still out there. I think it fits more these days to a person that's living by the code. You can be a great rider or roper, but if you don't live by that code of honor and integrity, in my book, you're not really a cowboy. Being a cowboy today, or any time, never had anything to with riding a bull, but the guys who have a cowboy mentality really have an advantage when it comes to riding bulls, because a cowboy gets the job done no matter what it takes.
"If you don't live by that code of honor and integrity, in my book, you're not really a cowboy."
Shane Proctor: It's a huge deal for me to call myself a cowboy. This isn't just the way I make my living. It's the way I was brought up. It's in my blood. It's an attitude, and it's something I'll always be proud of, because it's the only thing I've ever known.
Being a cowboy is in our DNA. It's an attitude that we live by - almost an ego trip. That's how bull riding started. One guy said he could stay on longer than another guy. You don't have to ride broncs or rope calves to be a cowboy, but your soul has to respect each other and respect nature. You're soul has to push you through the hard work, sweat, dust and blood. And that's what makes you a cowboy. I'm a third generation cowboy, and I'm proud of it. I'm a decent cowboy, but I'm not a quarter of cowboy that my grandma was. Now she was ranchy tough.
Ryan Dirteater: It's all I live for. I live for being a cowboy. It means the world to me. It's all I've ever done. Shoot, I can ride and rope and live the cowboy lifestyle.
Ross Coleman: It means everything to me. Not only me being a cowboy, but loving the whole cowboy way of life. It's just the way we live. I enjoy staying away from town, and it's like therapy for your head to get out there in the country and ride through the cattle on a good horse.
J.W. Hart: It's a lot of different things. I don't know how to put it in words, but it's a sense of pride and a little sense of honor of still living somewhat a life of yesterday - the way it was back in the good old days 100 years ago. Being a cowboy to me means your word is as good as your handshake. In all my years of riding bulls, I only signed two contracts. The rest were on handshakes and every one of them went the term and I did what I said I'd do and they did what they said they were going to do. I think the world would be a better place today if everybody did what they said they were going to do and put their word on their handshake. The honesty and integrity of being a man is being a cowboy. To me, a cowboy stands by his name and lives life with a free spirit.
Kody Lostroh: It's a way of life. What it means to me is that it's what I am; it's what I do. I don't know how to describe it. It's just part of who I am.
A cowboy, in my opinion, is somebody who knows livestock, works hard and is a down-to-earth type of person. We're not super fancy and probably not even super smart, but we'll give you the shirt off our back if you need it.
Chad Berger: I grew up around cowboys and I always wanted to be a cowboy my whole life. When we grew up, we didn't know any other way. My dad just made us cowboys. I have pictures riding horseback when I don't even remember riding a horse. I just always kind of lived the cowboy way and tried to be true to that.
Ty Murray: For me, it's getting to live and make a living pursuing my passion in life. I like the lifestyle, I like the outdoors, and I like the animals - horses, cattle and good dogs. I'm a fourth generation cowboy - probably more than that, but fourth that I know positively about - and it's still a passion of mine. It's not something you ever arrive at. It's something you can work a lifetime on. There are different facets and elements to what a cowboy is, from a rodeo cowboy to a rough-stock cowboy, from a cattleman to a rancher to a horseman to understanding the land, the grasses and how to be a good steward of them.
For me, it's provided more than I could have ever hoped for it to provide. The great thing, for me, is that it's been my passion. That's my only hope for my son. I don't care if he's a cowboy or not. I just hope that he's able to be passionate about something. That's what being a cowboy has been and really still is for me. I enjoy trying to hone my skills and become better and become quieter with livestock. I think I've made good progress, but, like I say, it's something you keep working on and getting better at. The animals are the ones who teach you. It's hard. It's challenging. It's always very rewarding.
Brendon Clark: Being a cowboy today means you're continuing on the legacy of what America was all about years and years ago. It's an opportunity to do what you want to do every single day. It means something different to everybody, but to me a cowboy is somebody that is a man of his word. They ride horses. They're usually tough. It's somebody who is a role model. A cowboy isn't defined by wearing a cowboy hat, pair of jeans and a shirt. There's more to it than that.
Jim Haworth: Even as a kid, the icon of a cowboy and what that's meant to me growing up - the good guys, telling the truth, trying to be the hero, all those things that the cowboy represents - humbles me to even think about being in that life. It's all I ever wanted, and even as a kid, I'd wear my cowboy boots with my shorts. It's one of those things that's a special representation-an iconic figure of America that, I think, transcends around the world. People want to have those kinds of characteristics that we have grown to love out of cowboys.
Kent Cox: It's everything to me. It's a way of life. I don't know what else I would be - what else I would want to be. It's all I ever wanted to be. How do you say this? Well, it's a way of life. It's a mind frame. It's standing up for what you believe in, putting everything you have into something, living by a code to be the best man that you can be, help people when you can and to just be a good person.
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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