RealCowboysYou’re a real cowboy if you have cow manure and stirrup marks on your boots. If your hat is stained with sweat and you have rope scars on your hands. If John Wayne is your hero and you’re as handy in a fight as you are on top of some hammer-headed cayuse.

The 67-year-old rancher in Nevada, Cliven Bundy, who stared unblinking into the powerful maw of the Federal Government and stood his ground wearing an old hat and well-worn boots is a real cowboy. To understand Bundy, you first have to look back to the Old West when real men conquered a vast wilderness and made it work. You have to understand the character of what it means to stand in your own two boots and owe your soul only to God.

For much of my life I was a cowboy and rancher. I’m a writer, have been since I was seven years old. I’ve also been many other things along the way, of which being a cowboy is one of the things of which I am most proud. I know the feel of a wet saddle, rain in my face, chasing cattle out of timber; of winter mornings breaking ice on ponds; of the look on my wife’s face when she discovers a half-frozen newborn calf in the living room warming up; of the soft nuzzle of a horse colt against the back of my neck. . .

Bundy is a product of the harsh deserts. His family has been on that land for generations, moving West in the 1870s where there were more rattlesnakes than people, when a man could ride for days without seeing another rider, when there were no boundaries to fence him in, and men were as wild and free as jackrabbits. There were few rules, and most of them had to do with the Ten Commandments.

These men and women who moved West did so to escape the confines of settled life and pioneer new country. It required tough people like them to settle and to make homes in a young America. And sometimes, sometimes, like with Bundy, it’s hard for a man to bow to 81,000 pages of rules and regulations made 2,500 miles away and that have nothing to do with sitting a saddle all day and rounding up beef. Sometimes, a man just has to stand up. A man has to be a man for what’s right and true.

The real cowboy is a dying breed. It is America’s loss when there are no more cowboys who will stand up in their own boots.

It’s up to us and thousands of others like us to start sweeping up this mess and setting the table for the next generation. Otherwise, like Ronald Reagan said, the lights will dim and mankind will sink into a thousand years of darkness.”

From A Thousand Years of Darkness by Charles W. Sasser. Available in print from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other outlets. Ebook available for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo.