Everything I knew about cowboys, until moving to Eastern Oregon, I learned from Willie Nelson.
Now my teachers work with me every day, shop with me, play golf with me, and all of them are going overboard to teach me "the cowboy way" as they know it.
Dr. Tom Weeks, whose surgical specialty revolves around sports medicine, is this year's Round-Up Board president. He agreed to give me my first lesson in getting "cowboyed up," and as Willie told me, the hat's the first thing a cowboy puts on and the last thing he takes off.
Pendleton has lots of places to get cowboyed up. Some are specialty places with national reputations.
Red's Clothing Co. on Main Street services orders for hats that cost thousands of dollars. EO Photographer Don Cresswell worked for Red's for more than five years, and he also pitched in with hat advice for the dude.
We went to Pendleton Grain Grower's store where the hat selection is not nearly as robust, but where the clientele numbers lots of cowboys every day. A couple of weeks ago I waited in line behind a guy who was wearing spurs. Really.
These were not the spangly, sharp pointed showtime spurs I'd seen in movies or even at the rodeo - nope, these were simple little wheels with edges blunted by years of wear.
I looked the guy up and down. While he obviously spends some time outdoors, and he knows enough about horses to deal with the medicines he was buying in bulk, he didn't look different from constructon workers or business guys who play golf or fish a lot.
Except for the spurs, of course.
As we were trying on hats (I'm somewhere between 7 1/2 and 7 5/8, sizewise.) Pendleton Convention Center Manager Pat Kennedy noticed the training session and couldn't help but give his 2 cents worth, "Dave, the sorry news is that when you put a cowboy hat on a city guy, you end up looking like a city guy wearing a cowboy hat."
Meagan Cory, a former Round-Up Queen herself, had little time from her duties as a cashier at the store, but she volunteered that my hat "looked pretty good."
Jeans are a staple in my "casual" wardrobe, but I've found out that a local laundry will starch and press them for only a buck. Starched jeans?
The dress of the day in offices all over the eastern part of the United States used to be tan pants, light blue shirt and striped tie with a blazer of appropriate navy. Here, it's starched and pressed jeans, tailored to hang right off the top of the cowboy boots, print or plaid shirt and navy blazer. Ties, while rare, are optional.
There's a whole mystique about boots, too, and we'll get into that later, but I probably won't get into the boots. These feet won't fit into anything that narrow, ever.
And what's with the cute little "neckerchieves" the dressed-up cowboys wear, what's the history with that?
Today's vocabulary lesson: Roll
Webster's New World, 2004: Roll (role) v.t. - to spindle
Talking Cowboy, Pendleton, since forever: Roll (roll) adj. - The look of your hat.
Cowboy hats are built with no creases in the dome and flat brims. Style and personality are put into the hats by artisans such as Mike Wallis at Red's Clothing Co. in Pendleton. Steaming the fabric (beaver felt, straw, whatever) allows the artisan to put distinctive look that matches the cowboy's taste and style. Less expensive hats come already with a roll. And, if you don't like the look but liked the price, Dr. Weeks points out that leaving a wet hat in a locked pickup truck on a hot day is known as cowboy steaming.
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