Celebrate National Day of the American Cowboy

American cowboyYes, Virginia, there are cowboys. And thanks to the efforts of American Cowboy magazine, the tough, hardworking, salt-of-the-earth men and women who make your juicy T-bone possible are getting their own day of recognition. I’m not talking about your wannabe, Keith Urban-listening, jacked-up pick-up driving, tight jeans-wearing, soft-handed yahoos. I’m referring to the real deal: people who work the land for a living, and actually know how to ride a horse, throw a lariat, and mend a fence.

The National Day of the American Cowboy, held this year on July 23rd, was founded by the magazine in 2004 to “preserve, protect, and promote our Western heritage.”

Full disclosure: I’m a contributor to American Cowboy, but not just because I grew up on a ranch and immersed in the Western lifestyle. It’s because I spent my formative years around ranchers, wranglers, packers, and rodeo folk that I have the respect I do for these people, and have dedicated myself to helping preserve their way of life. I may not agree with industrial livestock production and certain ecological aspects (which don’t pertain to all ranchers, anyway) but I can separate that from the need to feed millions–if not billions–of people, and the respect cowboys and ranchers have for the land, their animals, and their heritage.

Few people are more invested in preserving open space than cowboys. Their livelihood depends upon it. And without a deep investment in the welfare of their livestock they can’t make ends meet. So this year, think about thanking our cowboys by joining a local event (click here for listings). Or put on Sons of the Pioneers, fire up the barbecue, and offer a toast with a bottle of Coors or shot of Jack.

[Photo credit: Flickr user mharrsch]

Learn the national holidays before you go – International travel tip

Before departing for a foreign country, be aware of any national holidays that will occur during your trip. Do your best to learn about even the minor ones that aren’t widely known.

My husband and I nearly had our honeymoon derailed by a national holiday during our stay in French Polynesia. Most businesses were closed, including restaurants, banks and museums.

We were saved by the tourism office, which offered us a chance to spend the day learning about Tahitian culture on the grounds of a closed museum. Otherwise, we would have wasted an entire day of our trip stuck in an urban area with nothing to do.

[Photos: Flickr | Yandle]

Obscure Holiday in the US is a Big Deal in Spain

Try to keep your excitement under control: Columbus Day is coming. While post office employees and history buffs have been waiting, this holiday will pass unnoticed for most people. That is, unless they try to go to the post office or local library, most of which will be closed in memory of Christopher Columbus, first white guy to set foot in the Americas (sorry Leif Ericson, but you didn’t write it down).

But the U.S. is not the only nation that celebrates Columbus Day. So does Spain. Only they don’t call it Columbus Day. It carries the grand title: Dia de la Hispanidad. The day features parades and celebrations of Spanish culture. The Spanish and Portuguese-speaking Americas and Spain’s Iberian kin Portugal get in on the party this year with a celebration of Iberian and American culture called VivAmérica. There are festivals of art and film, concerts and lectures, and little or no mention of the bloody history of the colonization of South and Central America. Most of the festivities will take place in Madrid. The events run until October 12th. Parades also take place in some US cities with large Spanish-speaking populations.

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Independence Days Abound: A Quiz

July is an Independence Day gold mine. I was looking through my International Calendar published by the Madison, Wisconsin Returned Peace Corps Volunteer group when I saw the wealth of July flag waving opportunities.

Some celebrations have already passed, but there are plenty left where you can look for parades, speeches and possible frolic. To brush up on your Independence Day history, here’s my “Name the Country that a Country Gained Independence From Quiz ” Answers are on the read more page. You can also click on this link for more independence facts.

  • Burundi & Rwanda, July 1.
  • Belarus, July 3
  • Venezuela, July 5
  • Cape Verde, July 5
  • Algeria, July 5
  • Comoros, July 6
  • Solomon Islands, July 7
  • Argentina, July 9
  • Bahamas, July 10
  • Kiribati, July 12
  • Columbia, July 20
  • Liberia, July 26
  • Maldives, July 26
  • Peru, July 28
  • Vanuatu, July 30
  • Burundi & Rwanda- Belgium in 1962
  • Belarus, July 3 –
  • Venezuela, July 5- Spain in 1811
  • Cape Verde, July 5- Portugal in 1975
  • Algeria, July 5- France in 1962
  • Comoros, July 6- France in 1975
  • Solomon Islands, July 7- United Kingdom in 1978
  • Argentina, July 9, Spain in 1816
  • Bahamas, July 10, United Kingdom in 1973
  • Kiribati, July 12, United Kingdom in 1979
  • Columbia, July 20, Spain in 1810
  • Liberia, July 26 in 1847
  • Maldives, July 26 in United Kingdom in 1965
  • Peru, July 28, Spain in 1821
  • Vanuatu, July 30, United Kingdom and France in 1980