When you hear the word “cowboy”, what does it make you think of?
In Western films, so I am told, cowboys are often honorable heroes. The image I normally associate with the word “cowboy” is very much that kind of cowboy – Stetson hat, revolver, cowboy boots, lariat, bandana, drinking whiskey, shooting to kill. As you can probably tell, I have never met a real cowboy, so my perception of them is rather muddled and self-contradictory, as is my perception of sherriffs and outlaws and all the rest of ’em.
I do, however, have some idea what a historical cowboy was like, half-recalled from GCSE history lessons. They were men who would ride with cattle and drive them across the West, often with little regard to rules such as jaywalking (which meant trespass, not crossing the street at a non-desinated crossing), much to the anger of landowners. Part of their job was to protect their cattle from the Native Americans, who would sometimes take cows. It was a tough life, and they were tough people. I doubt very much whether they could have lived by a complex code of honour and revenge.
“Cowboy” also has connotations of carelessness, as found in phrases like, say, Three Little Cowboy Builders. So yeah, not so capable. So what is a cowboy?
I’ve never seen an actual Western. The closest I’ve seen were probably “Gunmen of the Apocalypse”, an episode of Red Dwarf VI, which was a comedy (although well worth watching), and the spoof Western Blazing Saddles. So, all in all, researching and watching Westerns is going to be very much a learning experience for me.