I’ve seen and done more than I could have ever imagined, and things have to get seriously gonzo to surprise me these days. As gonzo as say, a pregnant cow with my arm shoved inside its vagina, all the way to the shoulder. One can imagine all manner of adventures, destinations and people, but what does it feel like to penetrate a cow, and why would anyone want to? Well, it feels warm and soft and strangely pleasant once you get over the shock, and the reason behind it is because I’m on a ranch in Alberta’s Porcupine Hills, and I’m learning how to be a real-as-sin honest-to-goodness down-home tobacco-chewing cowboy.
Season 3 of Word Travels kicked into gear as we start our adventures (to 13 new countries over the summer) with a short flight from my base in Vancouver. Calgary. Cow Town. Home to a million + folks who can wear cowboy hats with no irony whatsoever. They take their steaks rare, their trucks big, their roads straight, and their mountain ranges high. Alberta is to Canada what Texas is to the United States, only colder, smaller, and seriously into ice hockey. Its oil sands (also known as tar sands) are the largest in the world, although the resulting crude is more expensive to extract than regular black gold. Canada is the largest crude oil supplier to the US, and that’s a lot of goop making its way south, and a lot of money making its way back north. Fortunes are shaky with the current economic climate, but Alberta is by far the richest province in Canada, and that wealth extends into its traditions of cattle, rodeo and pioneering spirit.
My lesson this week is to learn the ways of the cowboy. The school is Skyline Ranch, a family owned cattle ranch 90 minutes drive south from Calgary. My teacher is Bill Moynihan, owner of the ranch and a genuine one-of-a-kind outdoorsman. His voice is like polished gravel, his hands leathered and tough, and his moustache a proud army protecting his upper lip. Bill is a former Royal Canadian Mountie, a boxer, a bush pilot, mountain guide, hunter, and award winning rodeo cowboy. At 71 years of age, he’s hauling heavy blocks of hay, galloping on his horse, roping up steer and branding cattle. He chews Jack Pallance and spits out Sam Elliot.
The cowboy commands admiration and respect the world over because the cowboy is the essence of masculinity. Man at his finest: tough, resourceful, honest, and in synch with land and beast. I enjoy my westerns, but I was about to find out, as I often do, that Hollywood and reality operate according to different cosmic dimensions.
Click here to continue reading
< back to the episode
< back to the list of articles