Archive for June 19th, 2008

June 19, 2008

51 Cowboy Facts; or, the Mythic Metaphor

by cowboylands

There are days when words come easy. There are days when words come hard. And there are days when other people come to you with the perfect words.

Cowboy metaphors are simple to use but harder to back up (see “cowboy diplomacy”). From the press statements of world leaders to casual water-cooler talk, the downright sloppy use of cowboy lingo and other western euphemisms, allegories, and analogies have marred, blurred, and fuzzified the Cowboy Mythos. It’s part of my mission to right those wrongs, and so when I find someone discovering an apt turn of cowpoke phrase, it makes my day.

This post by Suzanne Fox, called “So Much in Common: The Truth About Editing and Bull Riding” galloped through my handy RSS feed tuned to all things cowboy, and as it is about Cowboy–or Bull Riders–that means I can add another fact to my 51 Cowboy facts list:

37. Take off the civilized trappings from anything–board meetings, teaching, grocery shopping, roofing, or editing–and you find yourself wearing a pair of chaps, spurs, cowboy boots, and ten gallon. And hopefully, riding with Gary Cooper’s Virginian.

Here’s just one example:

1) In both editing and bull riding, you work in tight quarters with another individual who may turn out to be a sweetheart or may decide to stomp your guts out.

The bucking chute is a physical space, and the arena in which editor and writer work is a psychic space, but riders and bulls, and editors and writers, are pretty much on top of one another when they’re trying to get their work done. And in both cases, all participants are trying to get inside one another’s heads. The possibilities for stirring up trouble are endless. Some writers are easygoing and appreciative of editors’ suggestions, and some bulls just want to have their heads scratched when the ride is over, but both writers and bulls have sensitivities that astute people acknowledge and try to work with-or around. An insensitive editor (and there are some, unfortunately) may not break any bones, but broken and bruised egos go with the territory.

Yippee-yi-ki-yo! Happy virtual trails, all you editors and bull riders!