Educating the world about Texas one Yankee at at time.

Educating the world about Texas one Yankee at a time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Cowboy chic is an oxymoron

“Cowboy chic” is about the silliest pairing of two words I’ve ever read.

I was surfing the Internet looking for topics for this column and found “cowboy chic” being used to describe an expensive restaurant in Dallas.

This restaurant was touted as “…Cowboy Heaven. … The New Texas Cuisine blends Southwestern, Latin and Southern cuisine with pure Texas elements. The millionaire ranch design echoes the heritage and natural wonders of the Lone Star State.”

Another example of goofy wordsmithing: “millionaire ranch.” With a nod to the XIT and the King Ranches being the exceptions, there’s not a whole lot of money in runnin’ cattle. As my father used to say, “Crime doesn’t pay. Neither does farming.” Cowboy chic, evidently, is a style some high-brow folks have applied to make all things Texas and western palatable for themselves. Here it is, as described by a home interior designer who, by the way, is from Cherry Hill, N.J.: “Cowboy chic is a rugged, daring and sophisticated all-American look that combines personal style with rustic charm and ties it all together with the romance of the west. The rustic feel comes from the colors and textures that form the foundation of the cowboy chic look.”

Romance of the west? Huh?

Watch enough Saturday afternoon westerns on TV and I guess there’s romance as portrayed by Hollywood, but real romance in the Old West? There really wasn’t much time for romance when a man was busy running stock, digging postholes and shoeing horses.

Cowboys? Romantic? Not the ones with whom I grew up, unless you consider your boyfriend naming his show heifer after you. Never happened for me and I’m still a little hurt. I’m not denying that cowboys can be sentimental. I’ve read my share of cowboy poetry. But romantic? Nope. And they’re not particularly emotional, either. In fact, cowboy stoicism is probably just slightly more emotional than that of Roman centurions.

Love, for a cowboy, is totally different from romance. Catching and keeping a cowboy’s heart is a real goat rope. If you’ve ever loved one, you know exactly what I mean. He won’t know what to do with himself at a candlelight dinner for two. He will, however, know what to do when you need him the most.

Let’s get back to the subject of “cowboy chic.” The cowboys I know are anything but chic. With regard to clothing, a cowboy chooses comfort and functionality over fashion. They’ll drive their trucks until the trucks won’t run anymore. In so-called “home décor,” a cowboy’s living room is likely to double as a tack room for his horse; the air permeated by the scent of “Eau du Cutting Horse.” And as for “New Texas Cuisine,” well, I don’t know what was wrong with the Old Texas Cuisine, and neither do they. Not many cowboys know arugula from Ariat, so using “Texas” and “cuisine” in the same sentence is about as silly as the phrase “gourmet pork rinds.”

My father, to me, was more cowboy than he was college professor and he was only a college professor because it paid slightly more than being a cowboy, provided health insurance and it meant working indoors in air conditioning.

Daddy thought two plowshares from his father’s tractor, welded to metal plates, made cool-looking bookends…and they did. Those plowshare bookends were real heavy too. The books wouldn’t fall off the shelf, but the bookends might cause that shelf to drop through the floor. Dad welded those bookends himself. Not bad for a college professor working indoors to earn his pay.

Cowboy chic is not to be confused with cowboy “mystique.” Cowboys, real ones, are practical, salt-of-the-earth types who don’t really go for “flash” or “loud” in personal style. They just go for what’s real and right. I guess my idea of “cowboy” is a little more grounded in reality and not in the whole Rexall wrangler fantasy.

If I were to use Hollywood as a reference for getting “cowboy” anything right, it’d be in the 1952 film, High Noon. That’s “cowboy” to me, and it’s not particularly “chic.” Marshall Will Kane (portrayed by Gary Cooper) is about as unchic as a man can be. He’s personally compelled to face a returning deadly enemy, and finds that his own town refuses to help him. In true “cowboy” fashion, he’s too proud to run and too proud to follow the crowd, much to the dismay of his wife, Amy, played by Grace Kelly.

Will Kane is not a man you would find being served “New Texas Cuisine” in a fancy “cowboy chic, millionaire ranch” kind of joint or rubbing elbows with the beautiful people who are striving for some twisted, westernesque high fashion. You’re more like to find the Will Kanes of this world at a small town café at just after the break of dawn getting fueled up for the day. Some of ‘em are sitting at the desk next to you every day at work. And a whole lot of ‘em are eight thousand miles from home defending your freedom right now.

Not chic, but certainly a style worth following.

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