Fifteen or so years ago I did an article for the now defunct Saskatoon magazine NeWest Review on a Bruce Anderson exhibition at the Rosemont Art Gallery (now Art Gallery of Regina) that explored the iconic character of the cowboy in American culture.
I quite enjoyed writing the article. I even dug up a photo of my younger brother as a pre-schooler dressed in full cowboy regalia — boots, cinched hat, holstered six-shooters, jeans, black and red satin shirt; the whole shooting match, if you’ll pardon the pun. It offered a telling comment on one way in which the cowboy myth is inculcated in our culture.
At the core of the cowboy there are worthwhile qualities like honour, strength, independent spirit and toughness. But they’ve been exaggerated and distorted and even politicized so much that the icon has become toxic in many ways.
The trick is to separate the undesireable qualities from those that have merit. Faux cowboy horseshit, or bullshit if you prefer, is ultra lame. If Canuck country/folk legend Ian Tyson and I sat down to talk, I think we’d disagree on a lot of things. Be that as it may, Tyson indisputably has “pasture cred” or whatever term it is they use to describe a legit cowboy.
Tonight, Tyson is at Casino Regina (8 p.m., $40, $45). Here’s video of him from an undetermined year performing “Charlie Russell”.