SWEETWATER COUNTY, Wyo. — A bill is being considered that would honor the past, present and future of Wyoming ranching.
Rep. Jerry Paxton, R-Encampment, is sponsoring House Bill 130 to establish a Wyoming Cowboy Legacy Week that would be hosted annually during the third week of September.
“It gives us an opportunity to stand out and gives us one more chance to tell our story,” Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna said. “It’s not only a part of our past, it’s very much a part of our future.”
“The cowboy and cowgirl today exemplify the Code of the West, which accentuates the values of courage, pride, persistence, hard work, toughness, fairness, fidelity, loyalty, honesty, directness, integrity and a principles-based lifestyle,” the bill states.
Magagna said the legacy of the cowboy and cowgirl and the role they currently play need “to be better understood.”
HB 130 passed the House and was introduced to the Senate on Tuesday. It is also sponsored by Reps. Hans Hunt, R-Newcastle, Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, Tom Walters, R-Casper, and Sens. Brian Boner, R-Douglas, Ogden Driskill, R-Devil’s Tower, Bill Landen, R-Casper, and Glenn Moniz, R-Laramie.
Paxton said he sponsored the bill at the request of the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame board of directors.
“Our goal is to raise the level of awareness of our citizens about the role cowboys played in the development of our state and to promote the positive values we here in Wyoming attribute to the cowboy culture,” he said. “In some circles around the country, when someone calls someone else a ‘cowboy,’ it is used in a very negative way. The term is used to describe a person who has ‘gone off the rails.’”
Paxton said one hears the derogatory form of the word used among news media to describe a politician who has expressed a viewpoint that does not conform to the norm.
“The website of the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame says it best in stating their purpose, ‘To preserve, promote, perpetuate, publish and document Wyoming’s rich working cowboy and ranching history through researching, profiling and honoring individuals who broke the first trails and introduced that culture to this state. WCHF plans to collect, display and preserve the stories, photos and artifacts of such individuals and anything else that will honor and highlight their contributions to our history,’” Paxton said.
Magagna said House Bill 130 isn’t merely a look back at the role of ranching in Wyoming’s history, its a celebration of the present and future.
A lot of people don’t understand. While there are cowboys and cowgirls who still wear the big hat, carry a rope and ride a horse, he said “the ranching community has become far more technologically advanced and more dependent on science.”
“We used to graze the land based on what you saw,” he said, but now they study science, ranging from the importance of soil conditions to the health of a resource.
“The genetics that we bring to our livestock are very advanced and very sophisticated,” he added. “A lot has changed while at the same time the spirit has remained the same.”
The cowboy aura goes beyond Wyoming’s borders. Magagna said he has traveled to southeast Asia. If someone says Wyoming, they may not understand, but he said if someone said Cowboy State, people would “be amazed at how many people have heard of that.”
“It’s a part of who we are I believe and it should be celebrated,” he said.