3 people on horseback with cowboy hats.

Photo: Kenny Braun

Tales of heroic cowboys and gritty ranchers dominate much of the state’s literature.  

And from outsiders’ perspectives, led by depictions in film and TV, every Texan wears a cowboy hat and owns a horse. As Amarillo-bred journalist Jason Boyett writes in his feature about his hometown, “This is what they think Texas looks like.”

Andy Wilkinson of Lubbock, a fifth-generation nephew of Charles Goodnight—perhaps the most widely venerated of ranching legends—explains the allure this way: “There are a number of reasons for it. My late and dear friend Buck Ramsey, who was a cowpuncher and later become one of the great writers and poets of the West, said the cowboy and that way of life is a cult of skill. What that means is a rancher in the West, they’re valued for what they can do, not who they are, not where they came from, and for that matter, not what they own.” Wilkinson, whose own creative output as a singer-songwriter and author centers on cowboy and ranching culture, points out another key component of the enduring appeal of the lifestyle: “They’re not even mythical, people are still out there doing this.”

Though most modern-day Texans, including Wilkinson, might never lead a cattle drive or shoe a horse, city-dwelling Texans can find plenty of places across the state to experience that lifestyle for a day, a week, or even an afternoon. In the February 2018 issue, we join the largest trail ride in the world, visit three countryside dude ranches, ride horseback with city slickers, and provide a number of other options to keep you busy until the cows come home. Saddle up!

– Emily Roberts Stone, Executive Editor

From the February 2018 issue
The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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