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.
The Working 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 influence.
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