Looking for a city cowboy

Added: Heber Wolter - Date: 30.01.2022 03:49 - Views: 10396 - Clicks: 4228

This article originally appeared in the September 12, issue of Esquire. It contains outdated and potentially offensive descriptions of homosexuality, gender, and class. You can find every Esquire story ever published at Esquire Classic. Dew Westbrook is a big-city cowboy. The animal that carries him is a bucking bull. The bull is mechanized, but it bucks as hard as a real one, breaking an occasional arm, leg, or collarbone. Sometimes it crushes something worse. A honky-tonk cowboy has to risk his manhood in order to prove it. Dew, the beer t bull rider, is as uncertain about where his life is going as America is confused about where it wants to go.

And when America is confused, it turns to its most durable myth: the cowboy. As the country grows more and more complex, it seems to need simpler and simpler values: something like the Cowboy Code. According to this code, a cowboy is independent, self-reliant, brave, strong, direct, and open.

In these anxious days, some Americans have turned for salvation to God, others have turned to fad prophets, but more and more people are turning to the cowboy hat. The life story of Dew, the urban cowboy, sounds as if it should be set to twangy music and sung as a country-and-western ballad. One way the Cowboy Code is transmitted to the new urban cowboy is through country-and-western music. It tells him how to live and what to expect.

Actually, the life story of Dew, the urban cowboy, sounds as if it should be set to twangy music and sung as a country-and-western ballad. I knew his ex-wife would be there too. When the three of them met at the bullring, it might be like Frankie and Johnny. He had curly hair the color of the beach at Galveston, worn a little long for a cowboy. And he had pale-blue eyes that squinted. He was a good-looking cowboy who had had a hard un-cowboy day. Dew, who works six days a week, had spent his Saturday sawing foam glass, a form of insulation, with a saw at Texas City Refining.

All of the maze of pipes and towers at the refinery needed insulation. At twenty-two, Dew has already spent over three years insulating petrochemical plants. It is hard, boring work. All assholes and elbows, as he puts it. He exchanged his hard hat for a black felt cowboy hat with toothpicks stuck in the band and his name spelled out in small gold letters on the back. After work, the big-city cowboy had come home to his covered wagon: a mobile home.

He lives in a trailer park that is built in a circle, so at dusk all the mobile homes really do look a little like a wagon train circled up for the night. He was ready to turn into an urban cowboy. No country cowboy ever decorated his hat with gilt lettering. He traded dirty bell-bottom blue jeans for clean bell-bottom blue jeans that had just been ironed. No country cowboy ever wore anything but unironed, straight-legged jeans. Then he swapped his work sneakers for cowboy boots with a flat, rubber heel deed for a range made up mostly of asphalt, sidewalks, and linoleum.

No country cowboy ever wore anything but high, pointed, leather heels deed to let a cowboy dig in his heels if he roped something mean. If a country cowboy wore short sleeves, his arms would be scratched off the first time he passed a mesquite tree. He had his armor on. During the Middle Ages, dressing a knight in his armor was a solemnly important ritual.

The dressing of the urban cowboy is no less so. When a city cowboy dons his cowboy clothes, he dons more than garments: He dons cowboy values. These values evolved among people who lived fifty miles apart. While they were away from everyone else, they had to be independent and self-reliant. And when these people did occasionally see one another, they could not afford to waste time being anything but open and direct.

And now these values, forged by people who lived too far apart, are serving people who live too close together. When Dew puts on his cowboy hat, it temporarily drives from his head the memory of his job at the refinery. His life is divided into hard-hat days and cowboy-hat nights. It is a way of coping. It may sound crazy, but it works. He made it buck. Beside Dew on the pickup seat sat Jan Day, twenty-four, with whom he has lived ever since he broke up with his wife, twang-twang.

Auburn-haired Jan possessed a porcelain beauty that made men want to save her from breaking. She wore cowboy boots, flared jeans, and a transparent top with nothing underneath. No cowboy-cowgirl could afford to let her breasts roam free as dogies. A different set goes there. But when you walk through the door, you see that it is a great deal more. It has about forty pool tables which makes it roughly equal to forty bars under one roof. On a busy night, this capital of the urban-cowboy culture has a population greater than most state capitals had during the heyday of the Old West.

On our way to the dance floor, we passed a gang of downtown cowboys gathered to pay a quarter to smash the punching bag just to prove how hard they could hit. A dial measured the force of each punch. If the honky-tonk cowpokes slugged hard enough, a siren went off. And most of them did hit hard enough. When the saloon cowgirls are watching, the saloon cowboys often hit the bag until their hands bleed and their knuckles break. At the end of an evening, there is often blood on the bag. Jan and Dew tried to teach me how to dance the cotton-eyed Joe.

You make a line and kick a lot. All the cowboys danced with their hats on. When the band took a break, everyone headed for the bullring. A cowboy on the sidelines runs the bull by remote control, making it buck according to his whim. He had brought two ace bandages from home. He used one to wrap his right knee and the other to swaddle his left wrist. Then he pulled a bull-riding glove onto his left hand. He placed his cowboy hat on a chair in front of Jan like a votive offering. Then he climbed aboard the big, bad bull. As the bull started to buck and spin, Jan took in a deep breath and looked worried.

As I scanned the bullring, I noticed another intent face. I knew she was still in love with the bull rider, twang-twang. At the time, he was nineteen and she was eighteen. Betty and Eddie liked each other right away. It seemed like destiny. After all, their names rhymed the way the names of lovers in a good country song should. She wore pants, not having worn or even owned a dress for years. She had a turned-up nose, an adolescent pout, and long brown hair.

Dew came up and asked her to dance. She accepted. But that was fine with Betty. She had been watching him dance, and she liked what she saw. They danced until closing time as the band sang good old honky-tonk lyrics like:.

And the next. Betty and Eddie were lovers. One night after two A. He got mad and hit her right there in front of everybody. But Betty loved Eddie in spite of the pain, twang-twang. They decided to get married. Actually, there have been several marriages performed in the saloon.

Judge West, a colorful old-time justice of the peace, comes over and s the couples in matrimony. But Betty refused to get married in a honky-tonk. She wanted a Baptist minister to perform the ceremony in church. But her father insisted that he wanted pictures of his daughter dancing in her wedding dress.

Looking for a city cowboy

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Urban Cowboy Turns 35