"I'm a cowboy, Pappy!" stated Andrew after returning from feeding the cows, sporting his western style hat.
"A cowboy or a cattleman?" I asked.
"What's the difference?" asked a confused grandson.
Well now at 6 years old, maybe that difference is somewhat a moot point. But for someone like myself (who has spent a lifetime in animal agriculture and in "fly over country") there is a difference. So I set out to explain, "A cowboy is a chosen lifestyle, a cattleman is a profession.
"Cowboys" I went on to explain, "may or may not be in animal agriculture as a profession. They may drive trucks; drill for oil; dig ditches; CEO's of major companies; or may even be president of the United States. Cowboys have as their heroes people like John Wayne, Hoss Cartwright or maybe Will Rogers; men known for standing on the right no matter the consequences and are known for shooting from the hip with extraordinary accuracy. They remove their hats and stand when the flag passes by in review. They'll take off their hats and bow their head when a prayer is said. Their closest kin is a redneck and they're proud of it.
"A cattleman on the other hand is a profession and he is probably a cowboy at heart. He can guess the weight of a steer in an auction ring within 10 lbs before the scale can settle. If he comes up one short on his cow tally, he can look over the group and tell you which one is missing, how many calves she has had and probably what bull she was bred to this year. He goes out in a blizzard to see that the cows are fed, cuts ice holes to see she is watered and works long hours in the heat of summer to keep fences fixed and hay baled. He's not a member of PETA and finds disgusting anyone who believes he would mistreat the animals under his care.
Someday he'll understand.
PS: To those who wrote emails and left comments recently during my "block" with concerns, suggestions and words of encouragement ... thank you.