I had a distinct
privilege and deep honor last year—on Veterans Day, in fact—to carry the banner
of the United States Army at the World Championship Ranch Rodeo in Amarillo.
Ranch Cowboys Association conducts a wonderful opening ceremony in which each branch
of the military’s flag is presented as that branch’s theme plays over the
public address system. I trotted my young gelding out to the strains of “The
Army Goes Rolling Along” and was immediately humbled by the response the
sold-out crowd gave to our nation’s military personnel.
As the flags of
the other branches were presented, followed by the crescendo of the National
Anthem, I sat there amazed. I looked up to see the entire crowd waving flags,
standing, singing, hands over hearts, in tribute to our nation and its heroes.
Put in a
position to consider exactly what it was everyone was honoring, the reality of
what our veterans have done for us overwhelmed me. The idea of committing
ourselves in service to a greater good is exceedingly special. Those who have
protected our freedoms often are robbed of the chance to enjoy them
fully—whether by death or injury. What stirs in my mind is that these brave men
and women aren’t the only ones called to serve. It’s true, our nation’s
veterans hold the most vivid and dramatic example of servitude in our day, but
we should all follow their example and find ways to serve in our own spheres of
In the following
pages, we’ll introduce you to people who are working to preserve the cowboy
heritage in their own way. Each year, all across the West, committed volunteers
and visionaries serve the public as hosts of Western-themed events. We’ve done
an exhaustive search and humbly present you with 175 of our favorites (p. 26).
Some have served through poetry (p. 58), others by recording the cowboy way of
life (p. 21). Still others, like the working cowboy (p. 46), serve consumers of
beef around the globe by caring for and developing an excellent product.
All these folks
are an inspiration to me—and hopefully to you as well—as we find our place in
this world to serve our fellow man in whichever way we’re called.
photo by Hubbell Rodeo Photo