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]

Trail rides and wagon trains converge in Houston to kick off world’s largest rodeo

trail rides HoustonIn a salute to the Old West, 13 trail rides and wagon trains–some coming from 336 miles away–have converged to mark the start of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which runs through March 20th. The world’s largest exhibition and rodeo entertainment show was developed to “encourage and promote the breeding, raising, and marketing of better livestock and farm products at public fairs and to promote and maintain research and educational functions within the livestock industry.” I recently posted about a similar agricultural and livestock fair in Paris, so happily, these events are global.

Three thousand participants rode from five days to three weeks to reach Houston, carrying on a tradition that began in 1952, when a small group of men started a trail ride to help promote the rodeo. The riders and wagons pay tribute to the heritage of the frontier, and the animals and individuals who made the settlement of the West possible. But the ride is also a form of education. In addition to the settlers, some trail rides are dedicated to honoring the history of black and Hispanic cowboys, which many are unaware of.

Macon.com’s blog interviews a number of participants, some of whom have annually made the ride since childhood, or are second- or third-generation riders. One 15-year-old girl was actually born on the ride. Eighty-year old Mac Goldsby of Houston has been doing the Valley Lodge Trail Ride since its founding in 1959. “To me, it’s walking history,” he says. “There’s so many people that don’t know about horses, mules. If anything, it might inspire them to read history.”

The Houston event has inspired others to host trail rides to promote their shows and educate the public, such as the Dixie National Livestock Show and Rodeo in Mississippi, and the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. Hats off to preserving America’s Western heritage, and keeping tradition alive.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Bill Gracey]

Murray City, Utah: American Idol runner-up, David Archuleta’s hometown

As I wrote in my post about Blue Springs, Missouri, David Cook’s hometown, I wondered about these hometowns during the segment of American Idol where the contestants go back to visit where they are from. The places that are big enough to hold the crowds that gather to cheer on their hometown favorites always seem to be a mall or a football field–not the things that distinguish one town from another or draw travelers to them.

Even though David Archuleta didn’t win, here’s a Murray City post anyway. Its history, like Blue Springs’ history, tells the tale of settlers moving west. In Murray City, the first to show up were the Mormon pioneers, however, over time, the ethnic groups and religions have become quite diverse, partly because of the railroad. Murray City once had the largest ore smelter in the region.

Murray City is also similar to Blue Springs in its population count and its location to a large metropolitan area. Murray City is close to Salt Lake City.

So, what is there to do in Murray City besides troll around looking for David Archuleta hangouts? There is a lot to do if you live in Murray City, but it’s not set up for tourists that I can tell. Here’s what I found to do.

You can tour the Murray City Museum at the city hall to find out about the city’s history.

At the Heritage Center there are dances and various classes that you might be able to stop in as a visitor, but they are set up for town residents, I imagine.

The Murray Park Amphitheater offers performances through the Arts in the Park Series. Just like in Blue Springs, you can golf.

In my impression, Murray City is one of the places to live, and not necessarily to visit, unless you’re on the lookout for David Archuleta. Just remember, the guy is a person and not a tourist attraction.