Let’s face it: being a cowboy ain’t as cool as it used to be.

Back in the day, being a cowboy was the dream of many a young kid. Astronaut, train driver, cowboy. Take your pick. Follow your dream.

Astronaut was ruined by the prospect of space tourism. What’s the point of jetting off into the final frontier if you’re going to bump into Richard Branson and his family doing some space pitch ‘n’ putt?

Then train driver took a pounding. Pressing ‘go’ and, more often, ‘stop’, while repeating “We apologise for the delay and any inconvenience caused” doesn’t have quite the romance of the Flying Scotsman powering through the English countryside.

But still there was cowboy. That was still cool.

Then bloody Brokeback Mountain came along, won three Oscars, and instantly annihilated the formerly untouchable allure of being a horse-ridin’ gun-tootin’ sharp-shooting gunslinger from way out West.

But cowboys are on the way back. Real cowboys. Like C.J. Box, a man who has has hunted, fished, hiked, ridden, and skied his way through Wyoming and the Mountain West.

What he doesn’t know about living the cowboy lifestyle isn’t worth knowing.

How to ride rodeo
Don’t. The cowboys who participate in rodeo events are professionals. They go to rodeo schools, apprentice until they win enough money to get sanctioned, and after that they put their own money up at every rodeo they enter and hope they place high enough to win some back. Instead, watch the rodeo and ask questions. It’s a real sport.

What to wear in the wild west
Think outdoor wear, not cowboy wear. In the mountain west it gets cold at night and hot during the daytime. Dress in layers, like an onion. If you try to dress like a cowboy you’ll end up looking like a fool - see Hugh Grant in Did You Hear About The Morgans?

How to fire a gun western style
In the real west, the guys who drew fast and fanned the hammers of their guns in a gunfight ended up dead. It is hard to hit a target with open sites at any distance, even with time to aim. Do what the real gunfighters did: get really close and use a shotgun.

How to eat in the outdoors
Don’t squat – the plate will fall into the dirt.  Sit down with your back to the wind so grit won’t cover your food. Eat fast so the food doesn’t get cold and don’t think too much about what you’re eating. Everything tastes better outdoors. Luckily.

How to sleep under the stars
First, make your camp secure. Clean all the dishes and hang food high from a tree at least 50 meters from camp so hungry bears won’t visit. Don’t drink too much so you won’t have to get up during the night and stumble into the fire. And pitch your tarp just in case it rains.


Open Season by C.J. Box is published by Corvus. There will a Joe Pickett novel published every month throughout 2011. For more info go to www.cjbox.net.