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A real cowboy, man
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My high school friend in Texas stood about 5'4," yet even the biggest football players gave him a wide berth when he walked down the hall.

It was not that Ron was feared. He was respected.

Ron was solid muscle. Still he was always kind, had a smile on his face, did well in class and liked everyone he met. There was no one that did not like him. Ron was tough and we all knew it.

On Friday nights when the rest of us went to the football field, Ron drove to distant places like Mesquite or Richardson or Grand Prairie, Texas, because Ron rode rodeo bulls.

Most people know nothing about bulls. Very few people have even stood next to one, much less touched them. They have no concept of their size and power.

Ron knew all too well. He would climb onto an angry bull's back and with little protective gear try to stay on there for 8-9 seconds. If that doesn't seem like a long time -try it. Most bull riders get thrown through the air, or stomped on or worse. You are riding the devil's pet and every dismount will hurt.

Ron would come to school on Monday with dislocated shoulders, hoof prints smashed into his lower back or a dozen stiches over an eye. The football team had a cake walk compared to him and they knew it.

Decked out with all their pads they would bang into each other and maybe get a broken nose in the process.

When Ron hit the arena dirt he was coming down from an 8-foot toss off the back of a bull that heard no ref's whistle. To it, a rider landing on the ground only started the fun.

Ron rode bulls for years. He took over his family ranch, started selling farm tractors and made a good life for his wife and kids. When he shows up at reunions everyone remembers and respects him.

There are three types of cowboy out there.

One type wears shiny boots that have never touched a pasture. They wear fancy hats that have never soaked up a man's sweat and they buy their big gold belt buckles at a western store. The term is "big hat - no cattle" because that is what they are.

Another type of cowboy is like my grandfather. He was a working cowboy that spent every waking moment tending to his herd, mending fences and earning his money off the sweat of his brow. Those cowboys have worn and cracked boots that are always covered in mud. Their hats are stained and torn and their belt buckles are there to hold up their jeans.

Then there is the top tier cowboys like Ron. They mount a fierce animal that is trying to crush their legs before they even clear the chute. They stare down fear and try to be better than any cowboy out there. They ride bulls with chilling names like "Chicken on a String," and "Altercation" praying that in another 10 seconds or so they will be able to walk away from the encounter. Bull riding is a real man's sport. Everything else is just a game.

I have always counted myself lucky to know Ron. He is what a real man should be - tough but kind, capable yet unassuming, confident, honest, cheerful and helpful. He is the pinnacle of real cowboys like my grandfather and all those ranchers around him in West Texas.

We need far more men like them today in business, government, religion, education and life. Sadly what we seem to have these days is just a lot of phony cowboys with flashy fake belt buckles.

Maybe what we really need are more rodeos because they seem to build real men.

Charlie Auvermann is a longtime Dawson County resident and former editor of the Dawson Community News.