Cowboys not afraid of honesty

My father left his parents’ Texas home at age 14 with 36 cents in his pocket. He became a cowboy, one of the best in the business, and he never moved back in with his parents and eight siblings. Actually, he never went back for a visit, either, until he was 32 years old.

My brother and I both moved out of our parents’ home upon high school graduation. They didn’t throw us out, we just left. That was the expected action.

Nowadays, I see children moving out, then back in, then back out of their parents’ homes. The excuses are: “We can’t afford the rent on a place of our own,” or “We need help with our girlfriend/boyfriend expenses.” Really. My parents and grandparents never would have allowed such behavior.

Psychologist Jeffrey Arnett of Clark University in Massachusetts was quoted in this week’s “Sage magazine” in the Albuquerque Journal as arguing for a new developmental phase on the way to adulthood called “emerging adulthood.”

When I was growing up the “emerging adulthood” phase began with puberty — or sooner. By then children had been taught at least to recognize adult behavior. The only problem I see is those children haven’t learned to lie, so they tell the truth — no matter what the fallout. The old adage says, “If you want a truthful answer ask a child,” — and that’s why.

I have another: “If you want a truthful answer, ask a cowboy.” He has no reason to lie, and he has given whatever the subject is a great deal of thought while out among the animals and living in solitude, probably at a line camp on one of the big ranch outfits.

Solitude, I’ve noticed, is valued most by those who never have lived that way. English teachers and professors are fond of Henry David Thoreau. (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862). He was not a cowboy, but he chose to live in solitude — for a little more than two years. He built a one-room house on land owned by his friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and began his sojourn July 4, 1845.

The story goes that he spent less than $30 to build the cabin, using borrowed tools, and he lived on 27 cents a week.

A small lake called Walden Pond was nearby, and the pond was surrounded by one of the few surviving woodlands in that heavily farmed area.

As I checked further, I learned he had friends who brought things like food to him, though he did eat squirrel now and then.

We have a friend, Bob, who ended up in one of those English literature classes that brags on Thoreau. Bob was not impressed with Thoreau’s degree from Harvard, and when he finished reading “Walden” and the professor asked for comments, he had a couple.

He stood and said, “I think this guy is a lazy bum. He figured out a way to get by without working a lick, and to have his friends take care of him.”

The professor, of course, was scandalized. How dare this cowboy put down that famous philosopher.