Cowboy Gil is a true cowboy. I’ve never once seen him without a pair of boots, jeans and collared shirt with his cowboy hat in hand or on head. He’s got a fast horse, a short legged roan who Gil claims is the fastest horse you ever saw. Gil’s always got that horse by his side, or galloping out under him. They ride the range, work cows, toss ropes together–not just horse and rider but companions, true companions. Gil’s always got a rope in hand too, a lasso loop ready to toss over the next steer head, under the next calf hoof, or around the body of any unsuspecting passerby he thinks could use a surprise. A couple of weeks ago, we were moving some cows and a calf needed be separated from the herd. Gil grabbed his lasso quick as lightening and yelled to his dad “Let me rope him this time!” His dad replied patiently while coiling his own rope, “Nah, Gil, how about next time?”

Gil, by the way, is eight years old.

A true cowboy is one bred and born in the western world. The cowboy vein runs so strong in his blood that even at eight years old there ain’t nothing more important than getting ready for a long cattle drive or doctoring an injured calf. Gil’s dad says Gil won’t ever wear anything but his cowboy clothes–boots, jeans, collared shirt, palm straw hat, even to elementary school where all the other kids wear, well, normal kid clothes. Sometimes that causes trouble with making friends, but Gil’s got other friends, his ranch friends–his pony, his cattle, and a couple of other young boys who live on ranches and know the ranch ways. Their daddies, their daddies daddies, and possibly the daddies of their daddies daddies, were the ones behind the agricultural boom that rocked Carbondale into action back in the late 1800s.

Every time I see Gil at the ranch, it’s a treat. He’s always showing a smile, talking about this or that happening with his cows. I never once heard him talk about school but he’ll always go on about the cows. Sometimes he’s a little unruly–he tries to jump on the horses bareback and bridle-less, he repeatedly lassos the dog when he’s told not to, and he speaks at volumes far above and beyond what’s normal for any human to hear him.  But that’s just Gil–stubborn, independent, and like any cowboy, a little lawless.