I love cowboys because they: are steady and sweet, keep their cards close to their chests, only open up when they know you’re trustworthy, are solid and low-key in their loving (platonic and romantic), know a lot about animals and how to care for them, are respectful to others, specially elders and people in need of protection, love to be outside, in nature, keep their word, are low-drama and dependable, and don’t care much about celebrities, fancy clothes or fancy events

I grew up in rural Ohio, so we really didn’t have cowboys, we had farmboys, our own version. These were the guys in school who weren’t the quarterbacks, but comprised most of the defensive line on the football team. They weren’t known for being academic stars, but they were definitely who you wanted on your side when the shit hit the fan.

When we were in high school, Jim, one of our farmboy neighbors, got spinal meningitis, a rarity for small town Ohio. Jim and his sister Linda rode the same school bus as my siblings and I. We saw Jim look more and more unwell, but he never complained. Cowboys rarely complain: they face hardship head on with a huge dose of stoicism. Jim was a good cowboy.

When he was admitted to the hospital for treatment, the other kids at school talked about how he might die, but, even at age sixteen, he kept his own counsel. When he had to drop out of school, he didn’t want a lot of visitors at the hospital: sympathy and pity weren’t interesting to him; getting better was.

And he did. He toughed it out and recovered, to the amazement of all the doctors at the Cleveland Clinic. Today, he lives with his family on his father’s farm, carrying on the cowboy/farmboy tradition.

Cowboys don’t need to be men: I’ve met many a cowboy of the female gender who has all these same great qualities. I used to work with one such woman. Her name was Peg: we worked together at Cleveland Steel when I was home from college after my freshman year. Peg was as solid (emotionally and physically) as a rock, all 4’10” of her. She had cowboy humor too. When she saw me on my first day at the factory (after my first year of college), she said, in front of everyone on our shift, “Well, well. Look at Mr. College Boy. What did you learn there Mr. College Boy? Enlighten us with your newfound wisdom please.” I was embarrassed, but everyone had a good laugh: she put me in my place (as good cowboys will), yet did it with a light touch. I loved her and enjoyed her gently-mocking humor, even when it was aimed at me.

I love my inner cowboys too. When I need guidance, I go to them. I have flashier, louder parts of my consciousness that shout more and demand more attention. I will usually hear them out. But, inevitably, I ask my cowboys, “Well, guys, what do YOU think?” and their advice is usually the best.

Inner cowboys can be your touchstones. I encourage you to get in touch with yours. Here’s one way to do it:

Take a moment, sit still and close your eyes. Ask your inner cowboys to come forth and talk to you. Be open and curious about them: cowboys like to feel respected. You can ask for advice on specific problems: they’re very helpful with that kind of thing. And let them ask you questions. Maybe they’re wondering why you’re still hanging out with these people or dating that person. They may not understand why you’re still at that job you hate or why you let your parents talk badly to you. Let them share their wisdom with you. You don’t have to take their advice (though it’s usually wise to do so).

Buddhists may call this “your higher self”. Fair enough, but I call it “my inner cowboys”. Inner cowboys give great advice and real-world (physical) cowboys are just fun to be with.

And that’s why I love cowboys.