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The cowboy way

Shane Macomber/Vail DailyBeaver Creek Rodeo Queen Hanna Nelson thinks a real cowboy is made with his heart.
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EAGLE After a brief downpour Friday evening at the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo in Eagle, the sun came out as people filled the grandstands – and so did the cowboys.Folks from all walks of life came out to enjoy the cotton candy, mutton bustin’ and bull riding. Many donned the traditional cowboy getup – a cowboy hat and a pair of boots, a button-down and Wranglers.But how do you know a real cowboy when you see one? Does he have to be wearing boots? Does his hat have to be faded? Or is it what’s inside a man that makes him a cowboy?”Ninety-nine percent of the people around here are not cowboys. Let’s put it that way,” says LoyAnn Mabley of Gypsum.

Mabley’s not wearing a hat or boots, but she was born and raised on a ranch. She believes you’re a cowboy if you’re out working the ranch and working with animals.”To me it’s locals, people who have been around here for their whole lives ranching and farming,” says Mabley’s friend Debbie Eichler of Gypsum.She said there aren’t many real cowboys left. Debbie Eichler’s daughter, Barbara said you can find a few at the rodeo, but it’s not about what they’re wearing.”You can go out and buy cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, but that doesn’t make you a cowboy,” said Barbara Eichler. “I consider the guys that ride bulls cowboys. They do that for a living.”

Rusty Estes says he’s a cowboy because he lives on a farm in Gypsum and raises cows.”See my boots, they’ve got horse crap on the bottom,” Estes says. He’s got the Wranglers, the hat, the whole deal. So does his 2-year-old son, Brandon. Will Brandon grow up to be a cowboy?”You bet,” Estes said. “Absolutely certain of it. He ain’t got much choice.”



Beaver Creek Rodeo Queen Hanna Nelson of Gypsum has a different definition. “The dress doesn’t make a cowboy. And it’s not how many acres you have,” says Nelson, who has lived on a ranch her whole life. “I think a real cowboy is made with his heart and what he thinks of himself. Anyone out West is a cowboy, anyone who lives past the Mississippi.”Brad Higgins, one of the rodeo’s organizers, dons an authentic looking cowboy hat and boots. But he’s not a cowboy, he said.”By definition it’s someone who makes a living cowboying,” says the Rifle resident.

Randy Belisle of Austin, Texas, just moved to Gypsum to start a chinking business. His boots are worn, his hat is faded. He looks like a cowboy.”I’m not a cowboy. I’m a Texan,” Belisle said. “It’s not a look, it’s a lifestyle. It’s living a rustic life, like the old West.”His boots aren’t worn from years on the ranch, but from years of college, he said.”It’s a lifestyle. It’s living a rustic life, more like the old West.”



“It’s kind of a hard life,” said Mosher of Hugo, a saddle bronc rider. “Cowboys put up with more, so they understand more. Most cowboys are way more polite. They’re tougher, too.” Mosher’s life is the rodeo. His two brothers, Chad and Matt, and sister, Jessica, are bronc riders, too. When he’s not traveling the West competing, he’s managing a ranch. “Cowboys are just better people, I think,” Mosher said.

Arts and Entertainment Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 619, or laball@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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