I think I’m honest about the fact that I am not a cowgirl yet. Besides the alarming lack of cows at Two Terrier Ranch, there aren’t actually any critters here that you would call “ranched”. We have authentic coyotes, one or maybe two Mountain Lions and loads of foxes. But instead of dogies, we’ve just got doggies. That puts us squarely in the category of George W. Bush ranching — which is defined as having no livestock but terriers. That doesn’t mean I’m not undertaking a serious course of study for the day — hopefully soon — when we’ll be stocked with horses, burros and free-range chickens. It’s a steep learning curve, but I’m willing to make the sacrifice to live the dream.
Then every now and then I get a giant boost toward the Cowboy Way. Last week, it was stumbling over the book my lovely assistant, Lucy, is displaying at the top of this post. How to Be a Cowboy by Jim Arndt is billed as:
A compendium of knowledge and insight, wit and wisdom, and all-around resource for every aspect of cowboy life. Such as: Ranching, Rodeo, Cooking, Music, Dancing, Yodeling, Boots, Shirts, Horses, Hats, Buckles, Denim, Lingo, Cowboy Poetry, and How to Walk Like a Cowboy.
So much to learn, so little time! Which leads me to my current approach of tackling these important bits of knowledge in bite-sized chunks.
This week I’ve been practicing The Cowboy Wave. (Fellow students, turn to page 108 in your textbooks.) Little did I know how important The Cowboy Wave could be. You might even call it one of the foundations of the Cowboy Lifestyle. Excerpting from Lawson Drinkard’s Riding on a Range, Arndt breaks it into three important steps:
Step One: Get a Truck!
Which brings me to Step Two: Create a Style. Apparently, The Cowboy Wave can’t be a big showy hand-flapping. It can’t be a tightly controlled little flick of the wrist as the Queen of England has perfected. No, properly executed, The Cowboy Wave must be as laconic as Gary Cooper, as understated as Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name, and as thoroughly Western as John Wayne. Drinkard notes helpfully that the wave is best done without taking the hand off the steering wheel. That’s where you develop your style. Some cowboys just lift an index finger. The more dexterous raise only the second and third fingers while keeping the pinky and thumb on the wheel. (This is an advanced move for seasoned cowboys.) The important thing is to find your style and stick with it.
Step Three, of course, is: Get ‘Er Done. In other words, every proper cowboy gives this special Western howdee to everyone he passes. (Provided, I’m assuming, that they are not “no count, side-windin’ varmints.”) The purpose of the Cowboy Wave, my book tells me, is to say to another person: “Hello, noticed you today.” After all, out on the range, who knows when you’ll need that person’s help with cattle rustlers, horse thieves and the aforementioned “no count, side-windin’ varmints”?
In the meantime, I’m still working to find my special Cowboy Wave style. So if I pass you around Sonoma, well, “Howdee, Pardner!”
NOTE: Here are the Amazon links to How to Be a Cowboy and Riding on a Range. But the Cowboy Way would be to find it at your nearest independent bookseller. I found mine at the most excellent Readers Books just off the Sonoma Plaza.
True, authentic Cowboying involves a lot of beans. Beans and coffee with the grounds mixed in. Beans, coffee and branding. Yeah, that’s it – Beans, Coffee, and Branding. And pooping cattle. Yer always chasing pooping cattle. With yer horse or yer pickup. And Bankers. Don’t forget the Bankers.
I really, really like that Ford!
Beans and coffee I have down. I put whiskey in my beans (which I cook from scratch.) And one day, when I ordered my customary mocha at the local joint, they were out of espresso. So they made me what they called “A Cowboy Mocha”. Regular coffee, with the grounds and a shot of chocolate syrup. Just like Sergio Leone would take it.
We do a peace sign version, lifting index and middle slightly off the steering wheel – and a slight nod.
Yep. hope to hand that one down. (pun intended)
Pedestrians nod, many drivers nod and do cowboy wave-and we are in a big city! A girlfriend from Montana said the main rule of rodeo attire is do not wear white shoes. Shouldn’t it be coffee, beans, biscuits, butter and branding?
I can’t wait to read your cowboy poetry, or have you not reached that chapter yet?
I was taught the “rodeo wave” could only occur from horseback. You hold reigns in one hand, and then do a low wave by your leg with the other (I assume so you don’t spoke your horse with your hand movements). The actual wave IS kind of like QEII’s.
As far as the pickup wave – our family lifts four fingers of the left hand – while still gripping the steering wheel. You must act VERY nonchalant … big penalty points for showing enthusiasm or a big smile. (I always smile, so I never place. *sigh*)
Clearly there are a lot of stylish cowboys and cowgirls out there with their own “branded” cowboy waves!
we practice the truck howdy when we’re in Wyoming, trying to fit in. On the Peninsula, finger waving is usually restricted to the single digit variety.
We do a version of the cowboy wave out east here in my neck of the woods. I keep the palm of my hand on the top of the steering wheel and raise the rest of my hand up.