Shoulda Been a Cowboy

My dad’s been dead almost 30 years. Missing him a lot today. Probably not at all related to the fact that I’m a few days older than he was when he died.

I tell this story when I perform my song Into the Sunset but I’ve never written it down until now.

My father was born 300 years too late to be a pirate and, I thought, 100 years too late to be a cowboy.

When I was growing up in Wisconsin two of my Dad’s brothers were cowboys in South Dakota. In those days you could still make a living roping and riding and bulldogging and branding. (A bit about the second-youngest in this post at our travel blog.)

My big brother told the kids in the neighborhood that our uncles were cowboys. They laughed at us. Nobody’s uncle is a cowboy. They’d seen Roy Rogers and Gene Autry on television and they knew about cowboys. Before it got ugly our mom took us into protective custody in the house. (These are the same kids who, when my brother told them there was gold under our front porch all ran home to get teaspoons. Dad had to shore up the steps so they didn’t fall into the hole.)

A couple weeks later our uncle, my dad’s youngest brother, came to visit. He rolled up in a Pontiac twenty feet long.

And stepped out wearing boots, a plaid flannel cowboy shirt, and his cowboy hat, jammed down tight so it didn’t blow out the car window.

As every kid in the neighborhood stood on their front steps in awe, he went to the trunk and took out his saddle to bring it in the house for safekeeping.

Our uncle was a cowboy, and for a little while that summer, my brother and I were gods.

Took me all my life to realize that cowboy isn’t what you do, it’s who you are.

And my dad was always a cowboy.


Into the Sunset

click to listen to 'Into the Sunset'                                

there was a time
not long ago
when a man’s word was his bond
if you shook on the deal
it was signed and sealed
but those days are gone

seems these days
you can’t trust anyone
to do what they said they would
the world has moved on
good old days are gone
and I’m afraid they’re gone for good

I wanna ride into the sunset
like a cowboy in the the old west
I got no use for what’s goin’ on here
and I think it’d be for the best

there was a time
not long ago
when a man really owned his stuff
what he built with his hands
his home and his land
even when times were rough

seems these days
it’s all just on loan
from a fellow down at the bank
but if we can’t pay
and he takes it away, he says
we’ve only ourselves to thank

I wanna ride into the sunset
like a cowboy in the the old west
I got no use for what’s goin’ on here
and I think it’d be for the best

there was a time
when young folks cared
to hear what an old man said
they showed concern
for the lessons he’d learned
from the kind of life that he led

seems these days
they don’t care what he knows
or if he’s got something to say
they couldn’t care less
and I have to confess
that I’d rather just ride away

I wanna ride into the sunset
like a cowboy in the the old west
I got no use for what’s goin’ on here
and I think it’d be for the best

I got no use for what’s goin’ on here
and I think it’d be for the best

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