SS: The Lives of the Cowboys. Brought to you by Open Toe Cowboy Boots for cool casual comfort in warm weather. And now, The Lives of the Cowboys.


GK: Sure was cold up there on the prairie, Dusty. Nice to get down into the Mississippi River valley. Cut down on the wind.

TR: Never knew they had mountains in Minnesota, Lefty.

GK: I think they call these bluffs though.

TR: Bluffs meaning they want you to think they're mountains?

GK: Anyway, Winona is just ahead.

TR: All I know is where you find mountains you will find wild women. Women who are like a highball. Tall and cool and full of whiskey.

GK: There's the Winona sign right up yonder.

TR: The secret of the good life! The three W's. Women, Whiskey, and Women.

GK: You do stay focused, I'll say that for you.

TR: What we doing in Winona anyway?

GK: Told you ten times. The anthropology department at Winona State invited me to come as an American cultural resource.

TR: Cultural resource my horse.

GK: They've asked me to sing some cowboy songs for them. Some of these kids have never heard yodeling.

TR: How lucky they are.

GK: Yodelling has virtually disappeared in this country.

TR: Sort of like smallpox.

GK: Well, here we are (HORSES STOP) Winona State Folk Studies Program. Just tie up the horses to this bike rack here. (HORSES, DISMOUNTING)

SP: Hey! Like, this is for bicycles, dude.

TR: Tell it to the horse.

SP: Your horse is not a bicycle.

TR: Glad you can tell the difference. That college education is really paying off.

GK: Say, you wouldn't know where I could find Professor Flexner's folk study course, would you?

SP: You mean "The Cowboy As Tragic Hero"?

GK: That's the name of it?

SP: Right. "Cowboy As Tragic Hero". I'm in that course. My name's Kendra.

GK: Kendra.

SP: Are you in that course too?

GK: No, I'm a cowboy.

SP: You are?

TR: He is and so am I.

SP: Where's your hats?

TR: We traded 'em for ones with earmuffs.

GK: If you could just show me the way to the class, Kendra, I'd appreciate it.

TR: And if you could tell me where I could find -- you know-- let me put it this way: if you were going someplace to drink whiskey and meet older men, where would you go, Kendra?

GK: Oh for heaven's sake.

SP: I don't drink whiskey. I drink organic green tea. From plantations that pay a living wage to their workers.

TR: Okay. Thanks. See ya, Lefty.

GK: So long pardner.

SS (FLEXNER): Class-- class -- (HUBBUB QUIETS DOWN) as we continue our examination of the cowboy as American icon and as tragic hero, today we have a very special guest, Mr. Lefty. Thank you so much for coming here and exemplifying for our students the dichotomy of the cowboy persona.

GK: Well, you're welcome. Glad to be here. Get out of the wind.

SP: Professor Flexner--

SS: Yes, Kendra--

SP: Last week you talked about yodeling as a male-specific indicator of power relationships --

SS: Right, Kendra. It's how a cowboy exerts domination and claims territory, much as animals vocalize, and also to indicate body mass. Let's have Lefty go ahead and show us.

GK: You want me to sing now?

SS: Whenever you're ready.

GK: And you want me to exert domination?

SS: I just want you to be yourself.

SP: Okay, but how does domination play into the essential tragedy of the cowboy persona?

GK: I'd be curious to know this myself.

SS: Okay. As we have learned so far, the cowboy is a loner who stands apart from the social structure--

GK: There's some truth to that...but then so do garbagemen.

SS: But when the society, or community, is in danger from evil, the cowboy rides in to the rescue.

GK: Depends on who's asking, I'd say...

SS: And there is the showdown with evil, and the cowboy faces the challenge, and he is victorious...

GK: Not always.

SS: But then in the end, the society rejects the cowboy and makes him ride away because he is a loner and he's not like them and he does not conform to their code of behavior.

SP: And that's the tragedy?

SS: Yes. Just as in the Greek tragedies of Sophocles.

SP: Okay.

SS: Yes-- Trent--

TK (TEEN): Man, he sure don't look victorious to me. No offense, but this guy looks like whatever fight he was in, he was the loser.

SS: Trent, please. Let's have Mr. Lefty vocalize now and then you can ask questions...okay?

GK: Questions?

SS: Vocalize, Mr. Lefty. We're all waiting.


I'm heading off to herd my cows
Down the lonely dusty trail
I ride all day behind the herd
And try not to inhale.

The cattle are on the prairie
And I am riding behind
By the time we get to Yellow Springs
I may have lost my mind.

I'm a hero like in Sophocles
I'm strong but deeply flawed
Society is in need of me
But they know that I am odd.

I'm riding in to save the town
From bullies and from thieves
But when it's done then everyone
Is hoping I will leave.

SS: Okay here comes the vocalization...

SP: Okay, but my question is about yodeling as a male-specific tool of dominance.

SS: But that's exactly what it is.

SP: But I went out and learned how to yodel over the weekend and I don't think it's about dominance. I think it's like other art forms -- it's about showing feeling, it's about vulnerability.

SS: Well, there's the dichotomy.

GK: You say you learned to yodel?

SP: Right.

GK: Just this weekend?

SP: Right.

GK: I'd like to hear that.


GK: That's amazing. How'd you learn so fast?

SP: Went to yodel-dot-com and downloaded some mp3's on my iPod and went around practicing. People looked at me funny, but--

GK: Man, it took me years to learn and it came from riding in the saddle and sometimes you 're bouncing along and you land on the saddle horn and (YODEL) --

SP: I guess girls learn differently.

TK (TEEN): Anyway, I don't see anything iconic. Unless you mean ironic maybe.

SS: Trent, please.

GK: I must say I found your yodeling strangely moving, young 'un.

SP: Thank you.

GK: I sure agree with you about vulnerability and expression of feeling. I don't think it's about dominance.

SP: When I walk around campus with my iPod and I get to yodeling along, people tend to edge away from me. I get in an elevator and they all get off at the next floor.

GK: My singing often has that very same effect.

SS: But don't you see that driving people away is a form of dominance.

GK: Boy, it sure doesn't feel like dominance.

SP: To me, yodeling is something beautiful. It's like the cry of one heart calling to another.

GK: I like that thought.

SP: It's one loner hoping to find another loner out there in the dark night of the soul.

GK: Isn't that the truth. Hey, you ever hear of Jimmy Rodgers?

SP: Jimmy Rodgers. That's who I have on my iPod.



Rolling this wide world over
Always alone and blue
Nothing seems to cheer me, under heaven's dome.
Miss the Mississippi and you.

Sailing along life's river
Searching for something new
Looking for adventure far away from home
But I'm thinking of Winona and you.



GK: So how'd you like Winona, Dusty? You find any wild women there?

TR: Found two of them. Both Republicans.

GK: Really.

TR: When you're looking for true wildness, you gotta go to conservatives. I've learned that. They talk about responsibility but you get 'em alone and, whoa-- they are pro-life in more ways than one. How about you? You meet anybody interesting?

GK: Met a young woman who can yodel.

TR: Oh boy.

GK: We made beautiful music together.

TR: Sounds like you're in love.

GK: She has a boyfriend. He's a hockey player.

TR: So leaving town was a good idea.

GK: Yeah. We sang "Miss the Mississippi" together.

TR: Uh huh.

GK: Want me to sing some of it to you?

TR: Maybe later.

GK: How much later?