A cowboy, the strong and silent “man’s man” is the iconic figure of masculinity. The same cowboy also has a certain fragileness. The perception of a man usually does not reveal the fragile side. However, Gretel Ehrlich reveals this underlying soft side of cowboys in About Men (1985), and Paul Theroux explains in Being a Man (1985) that the idea of manhood is pitiful because there is a fragile side to every man.
Ehrlich talks about the rugged lifestyle of a cowboy. He paints this picture of a man who loves what he does. The long days of work with little payoff, the courage of acting spontaneously in the field, and the physical punishment is often underplayed. Most movies containing a cowboy role show a bold individual who gets down and dirty and exerts strength in whatever he does. Their daily activities include throwing hay bales, riding horseback to round the cattle, and just about any other form of manual labor. That’s not all there is to these men though. “Ranchers are midwives, hunters, nurturers, providers, and conservationists all at once. What we’ve interpreted as toughness-weathered skin, calloused hands, a squint in the eye and a growl in the voice-only masks the tenderness inside” (Ehrlich 282). The author uses support by explaining the job of birthing and nurturing calves as part of the beef-raising industry. He also points out caring for a sick born calf by taking her home and nurturing her back to health. Cowboys have a façade. They have a socially defined image to uphold. They “…lack the vocabulary to express the complexity of what they feel” (Ehrlich 283). Some might say “lambs are cute” but a cowboy’s version is “Ain’t this little rat good-lookin’?” Same general meaning expressed with manly vocabulary. Ted Hoagland wrote, “No one is as fragile as a woman but no one is as fragile as a man” (Ehrlich 283). Men try to hide this characteristic but Ehrlich tells there is a softness to their strength and a delicacy to their toughness....
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