Driving down Sopris Creek Road, I found myself suddenly surrounded by the past. A herd of cattle, six cowboys, three Australian Sheppards, and an 80-year-old man on a six wheeler – moving the cows down valley.
Bill says, “This really is the last of the Old West. In 20 years, there won’t be such thing as real cowboys, just a bunch of nancies dancing the two-step at a country western concert.” Bill’s from Georgia and has a thick southern/western/somethin’ accent. He’s a cowboy today but, for lack of a better phrase, he’s worn a lot of hats. He’s been a rock climbing junkie, a fly fishing guide, a corporate monkey suit, an entrepreneur – he’s done it all. But Jeanie asked him about 10 years ago what he wanted to be when he was 12. He said a cowboy so that’s the hat today. Though he really doesn’t waste his time with bullshit Stetson’s and usually sports an Orvis Guide ball cap.
The last of the Old West drives their grass fed cattle from the upper part of Sopris Creek down the valley using the now-paved road as their guide. My 2001 Tacoma stood steady in the middle of the herd, while they stuck their noses in my open window and mooed as the dogs nipped their heals.
I took in the view, knowing full well this was something I’d tell my disbelieving grandchildren about someday. “There was a time when cows actually roamed the hillsides and ate the grass for food. Cowboys, like real cowboys with hats, and spurs and horses, would move them from field to field until they were full and fat and ready to eat.” The kids’ mouths would drop in disbelief. Cows probably don’t even exist at this point, except for in storybooks and paintings in museums. Now they are genetically engineered in plastic bags, equal parts protein and nutrients with zero fat. If we’re even eating animals at that point at all. We may just be getting our daily “food” out of an IV.
“And before that, there were buffalo, deer and elk, coyotes, foxes, and mountain lions that roamed these parts, completely on their own. Free.” My grandchildren will stare blankly at the use of the word “free”. To them, nothing is free because everything is just given, allotted, doled out, expected.
Bill says he likes to move the cattle every year because he knows those days are almost over. It makes me remember the days when I was a kiddo and helped move the Bar MJ’s herd with Texaco, the gentle quarter horse that lived to be 35.
I can’t help but what the future fake meat will taste like. And I’m sad to know that I am likely the last generation to ever have ever truly known a cowboy.