Having lived in Wyoming for six years and Texas for currently nine, I'm pretty sure that I've qualified as a cowboy. Despite initial impressions, I don't spit hayseeds; I don't wear boot-flared jeans nor a large belt buckle...but there's only so many Wounded Knee Hotels you can drive past before you begin to accept that you're from cowboy country. Raid my closet, and you'll find a large black hat and a single-action .45 Colt. The hecklers call me "Phil Berquist" all day long, but Daniel Stern's four-eyed cattle driver delivered a freaking foal.
Growing up in south Jersey and northern Delaware, the lore of the classic western tale drew me as it does most children. Born just 12 miles from Cowtown, New Jersey -- a flea market locally considered to have held the first American rodeo -- I have fond memories of watching amateur riders flung to the dirt with a bottled cream soda and hot dog in hand. It had never occured to me that I would one day attend world championship rodeo events in Casper, Cheyenne, and Houston.
Now, don't get too mesmerized by the introduction: I love a good Dean Martin western film and a bull-riding show; but I don't care for country music, and I couldn't stay atop a bucking bronc for two seconds...much less eight. I'd pee my pants if I'd ever tried to mount one of the mechanical bulls at Gilley's in Pasadena (pre-1989) -- I'll leave that to the drunk refinery workers. So how does a softie suburban father get his western kicks?