Skip to content

Senate honors Thomas’s legacy with “National Day of the American Cowboy” resolution

Enzi carries tradition forward in late senator’s name

May 20, 2008

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate today passed a bill honoring the late Senator Craig Thomas and cowboys all over the nation. The bill, introduced by U.S.  Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., designates Saturday, July 26, 2008 as “National Day of the Cowboy.”

For the past three years, Thomas – a cowboy himself – honored the heritage of his home state and the West by sponsoring a resolution to name the fourth Saturday in July “National Day of the Cowboy,” which coincides each year with the opening of Cheyenne Frontier Days.  This year, in honor of Thomas’ legacy, Enzi continued the tradition by introducing the Senate resolution.

“Acknowledging both the historical significance of the cowboy in pioneering the West and the contemporary cowboy’s contributions to our country was an important cause to Craig.  Each year he worked to gain national recognition for this enduring American icon with his ‘National Day of the Cowboy resolution,” said Enzi. 

U.S. Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., co-sponsored the resolution.  A copy of the resolution and Enzi’s statement is included below.

Floor Statement of Michael B. Enzi
National Day of the American Cowboy
May 20, 2008

Mr. ENZI.  Mr. President, I rise today to talk about one of the great icons of the American West.  The Cowboy is an enduring symbol of strong character, honesty, integrity, respect, and patriotism.  I’m proud to sponsor the resolution in the Senate to honor the men and women called “Cowboys” by designating July 26, 2008 the National Day of the American Cowboy.

Now, I’m not a cowboy myself.   I’m an accountant and one of the few elected officials from Wyoming who hasn’t had my picture on a horse.  But when anyone mentions my home state of Wyoming, the first image that comes to mind is a cowboy and his horse.  For many of us in the Senate, no one fit that image as well as my friend Craig Thomas.  Having lived in Wyoming most of my life I’ve gotten to know the best cowboys in the country, and Craig truly showed us what it meant to be a cowboy.  When Senator Thomas first began the tradition of designating a National Day of the Cowboy in 2005, he told us that “cowboys come in any age, race, marital status, and gender.”  He knew that the Cowboy Spirit wasn’t about getting dressed up in cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.  “Trying to define a cowboy is like trying to rope the wind,” he said, “but you certainly recognize one when you see them.”  We all recognized the Cowboy Spirit in Senator Thomas.  It’s about strength of character, sound family values, courage, respect, and good common sense.  Since it was first established in 2005, the National Day of the Cowboy has been celebrated at rodeos across the nation, including Cheyenne Frontier Days, and has even grown to include cowboys in other countries and other continents.  Senator Thomas passed away after finishing the resolution for the 2007 Day of the Cowboy.  I’m proud to continue the tradition of recognizing the accomplishments and contributions cowboys bring to our country that he began and I’m looking forward to celebrating Craig Thomas’s legacy as a cowboy in 2008.

The cowboy way of life has been passed down for generations since the first cowboys settled the American West.  They were true pioneers who came west to settle an untamed frontier.  Many of the cow towns that sprung up around the cattle business then are still there now and continue to live their western heritage.  The first cowboys had to rely on hard work and persistence to make their living in a tough country.  Today’s cowboys haven’t changed all that much from when the first wranglers and ranch hands started herding cattle on the Great Plains.  Today’s cowboys continue to rope and ride across America.  Ranching and the cattle industry are important parts of our economy that put American beef on the dinner tables of families across the country.  There are about seven hundred and twenty-seven thousand ranchers in America living and working in every state to manage nearly a hundred million cattle.   Cowboys work hard, but they also play hard.  Rodeo is a sport that tests skill with a rope or a cowboy’s ability to stay on the back of bucking rough stock for 8 long seconds.  One of the best parts of watching a rodeo is seeing the amazing partnership between a cowboy and his or her horse.  Rodeos across the nation, from big events like Cheyenne Frontier Days and the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, to weekly jackpots in rural communities as small as Kaycee or Cody attract more than twenty-seven million fans annually, making it the seventh most-watched sport in America. 

The cowboy legend still lives in our culture and our imaginations.  John Wayne made cowboys larger than life in movies like How the West Was Won and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.  Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Dale Evans entertained millions through their music, television, and movies and Louis L’Amour’s cowboy stories are read across the country.  Audiences today continue to enjoy western novels, cowboy movies, and country music.  We look up to cowboys because they are examples of honesty, integrity, character, and patriotism.  Cowboys have a strong work ethic, they are compassionate, and they are good stewards of the land.  We look to cowboys as role models for how to live up to the best American qualities.

Craig Thomas told us that those of us from the west could always feel at home in Wyoming because we know that it is and always will be cowboy country.  I’m proud to be from a state that continues to live the cowboy tradition every day.  Their contributions have helped shape what it means to be an American and have created a high standard we can all strive to meet.  Senator Thomas left some big cowboy boots to fill, and I’m proud to be able to continue his tradition of recognizing the many contributions that cowboys have made to our country.  I hope my colleagues will join me in honoring them with the National Day of the American Cowboy.

I yield the floor.

Designating July 26, 2008, as “National Day of the Cowboy”.

Whereas pioneering men and women, recognized as “cowboys”, helped establish the American West;

Whereas the cowboy embodies honesty, integrity, courage, compassion, respect, a strong work ethic, and patriotism;

Whereas the cowboy spirit exemplifies strength of character, sound family values, and good common sense;

Whereas the cowboy archetype transcends ethnicity, gender, geographic boundaries, and political affiliations;

Whereas the cowboy is an excellent steward of the land and its creatures, who lives off of the land and works to protect and enhance the environment;

Whereas cowboy traditions have been a part of American culture for generations; 

Whereas the cowboy continues to be an important part of the economy through the work of approximately 727,000 ranchers in all 50 of the United States that contribute to the economic well-being of nearly every county in the Nation;

Whereas annual attendance at professional and working ranch rodeo events exceeds 27,000,000 fans and rodeo is the 7th most-watched sport in the Nation;

Whereas membership and participation in rodeo and other organizations that promote and encompass the livelihood of a cowboy span every generation and transcend race and gender;

Whereas the cowboy is a central figure in literature, film, and music and occupies a central place in the public imagination;

Whereas the cowboy is an American icon; and

Whereas the ongoing contributions made by cowboys and cowgirls to their communities should be recognized and encouraged: Now, therefore, be it

1             Resolved, That the Senate—

2                       (1) designates July 26, 2008, as “National Day

3          of the Cowboy”; and

4                       (2) encourages the people of the United States

5          to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and

6          activities.