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Statement of U.S. Senator Michael B. Enzi
National Day of the American Cowboy
May 20, 2008

Mr. ENZI. Mr. President, I rise to talk about one of the great icons of the American West, the cowboy. The cowboy is an enduring symbol of strong character, honesty, integrity, respect, and patriotism. I am proud to carry on a tradition started by my late colleague and friend, Senator Craig Thomas, by sponsoring S. Res. 483 which honors the men and women called cowboys, designating July 26, 2008, as the national day of the American cowboy. I am an accountant and one of the few elected officials
from Wyoming who isn't known for riding a horse. But when anyone mentions my home State, the first image that comes to mind is a cowboy and a horse.

For many of us in the Senate, no one fits that image as well as my friend Craig Thomas. As he went through his leukemia treatments and still worked, he showed us what it was to cowboy up, to focus around pain, and to do the job at hand. Having lived in Wyoming most of my life, I have gotten to know the best cowboys in our country, and Craig surely showed us what it meant to be a cowboy.

When Senator Thomas first began the tradition of designating a National Day of the American Cowboy in 2005, he told us “Cowboys come in any age, race, marital status, and gender.” He knew the cowboy spirit was not about getting dressed in cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. He said:

Trying to define a cowboy is like trying to rope the wind, but you certainly recognize one when you see one.

We all recognized the cowboy spirit in Craig. It is 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 American Cowboy has been celebrated at rodeos across the Nation, including Cheyenne Frontier Days, known as the “daddy of 'em all.”

Senator Thomas would find me remiss if I did not invite all of you to Cheyenne Frontier Days at the end of July—or call my office to know about other rodeos in our State.

Sadly, Senator Thomas passed away after finishing the resolution for the National Day of the American Cowboy last year. But I am proud to continue the tradition he started to recognize the accomplishments and contributions of all American cowboys.

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 when the West was being settled are still there now. They continue to live their western heritage.

The first cowboys relied on hard work and persistence and loyalty to make their living in a tough country. Today's cowboys have not 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 the United States. There are about 720,000 ranchers in our Nation. They live and work in every State to manage nearly 100 million cattle. They are an integral part of Wyoming and many other Western States,
and they undoubtedly improve our way of life.

Now, you can be assured that cowboys work hard, but they also play hard. Rodeo is a sport that tests skill with a rope or challenges a cowboy's ability to stay on the back of a bucking rough stock for 8 long seconds. One of the best parts of watching a rodeo is seeing the amazing partnership between the cowboy and the horse. Rodeos across the Nation, from big events such as Cheyenne Frontier Days and the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, to weekly jackpots in rural communities such as Kaycee or Cody, WY, attract more than 27 million fans annually, making rodeo one of the most watched sports in America. The Professional Bull Riders circuit, with its TV coverage, has expanded the audience dramatically.

The cowboy legend still lives in our culture and our imaginations. John Wayne made cowboys larger than life in movies such as “How the West Was Won” and “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” and “The Cowboys.”  Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Dale Evans entertained millions with 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, patriotism, and self-reliance. 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 it is, and always will be, cowboy country. I am 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 am proud to be able to continue his tradition of recognizing the many contributions cowboys have made to our country as we designate July 26 as National Day of the American Cowboy for 2008.

I thank Senator Thomas for living the legend and involving us and America.

I have a unanimous consent request to read.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Judiciary Committee be discharged from further consideration of and the Senate now proceed to S. Res. 482.