A Cowboy for all seasons

  • Aperture: f/7.1
  • Focal Length: 78mm
  • ISO: 1000
  • Shutter: 1/125 sec
  • Camera: NIKON D80

Northport, Alabama

So here we are then, the newest addition to my pack — Cowboy, nine weeks old, 16 pounds of full-blooded Australian Shepherd. The kind of dog that garners attention when you walk through the park. The kind of dog you’d find on a wind-swept ranch, trotting alongside a horse, waiting for direction from a true cowboy — or cowgirl.

A cowgirl has to be tough. The world demands it. The sun rises early, the demands pile quickly. Slowing down is a quick invitation to watch the dusk creep in all too soon. Soft hands get rough; soft hearts get bruised; thin skin gets torn. The cowgirl doesn’t stop to ask why it is this way or when it will stop being so. She knows idle minds chatter, so she keeps hers busy, pressing forward as the trail bends, watching cooly as lush meadows become tangled weeds and tangled weeds give way to thickets clothed in shadow.

This is why cowgirls — and cowboys — have dogs. Dogs live for that first moment in the morning when you speak their name. The butt begins a wriggle that runs up the spine, across the shoulders, until soon the whole body is a wiggling statement of unabashed joy. Dogs mock pounce and leap for your hands. They snuffle and woof, and when they can’t control it any longer, they bark. Dogs wear their emotions openly, with no subterfuge.

All day long, this never changes. There are no moments when they’re involved in something else and would just as soon you leave them alone. There are no moments when they’d leave you standing in the dust calling their name as you accept the grim knowledge that the rabbit they’re chasing holds far greater sway than any treat you’ll ever offer. Dogs make good partners.

In a lonely place far from home, a cowgirl will want to feel a heart beating against hers, a warm body settling against her own, growing heavier and heavier as sleep takes over. She’ll want someone to talk to, someone to watch her as she moves about the room preparing for her day. She’ll want want someone to love her with an intensity most mortals can’t match. She’s not too likely to say any of this though.

Who needs a cowboy when you can buy his dog and still have change leftover?

Music: Don’t Come the Cowboy with Me, Sonny Jim by Kelly Willis (lyrics)


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