November 13, 2023
Digging out this morning after a whirlwind weekend with the grandkids. This may have been my favorite moment.
What Is Judgmental Dude-ism?
In my experience, nobody looks at a photograph of a welder and says, "That's not a real welder." So, why do so many of us feel compelled to pass judgement on photographs of cowboys—old and new—and dismiss them as not being real cowboys?
The real reason may surprise you.
Can You Spot The Real Cowboy?
Not sure how well you did on yesterday's Dude Spotting Test, but here's two more. Is this a photograph of a real cowboy?
Check out all of Buck's gear: riata, shotgun chaps, Mexican loop holster and a great hat AND he carries his pistol and knife on the same side, which was long thought to be a sign of "Dude-ism" but when dozens of period photos were found to have Texas Rangers wearing this same arrangement, our judgement changed (although some stick-in-the-muds still try to rationalize that the photographer made him do this and that REAL cowboys didn't do this on the range). And, also, this Buck Taylor (not related to the "Gunsmoke" Buck Taylor) was hired off of a ranch to work for Buffalo Bill, so he knew what he was portraying and did it well. Some discount this Show Biz aspect of Buck's career as disqualifying him (he also gets dinged for the long hair which is a sixties era prejudice that still clings to judgmental dude-ism) but I don't think any of that sticks. Do you?
Okay, here's a tougher one. Is this guy a real cowboy?
Turns out he is, in fact, a real cowboy in the Old West. His only sin is having really bad taste in hats.
Here's is how we got to the current epidemic of Judgemental Dude-ism: After WWII so-called Dude Ranches proliferated in the West, catering to eastern city slickers to come out west and live the cowboy lifestyle for a week or longer. Before their stay began, most of these tourists went into town and bought cowboy clothes to complete the fantasy experience and as this phenom spread, the ranch hands who worked on these dude ranches began to pull away from the clothing styles the tourists preferred (this is where the term "drugstore cowboy" came from). One of the first casualties in this clothing aversion was the tucking of the pants legs into the boot tops. Never mind that literally thousands of photos exist of real cowboys in the actual Old West wearing their pants tucked into their boots, by the mid-1950s no "real" cowboy would do it. Thus the pull to distance themselves from the Dudes.
Not long ago, during the Prescott Frontier Days, I asked an authentic looking cowboy on Whiskey Row if he worked at one of the neighboring ranches and he told me he wasn't a cowboy. When I asked him what he did for a living he said, "I'm a welder."
"And now, you know the rest of the story."
—Paul Harvey's famous sign-off