|Length:||57 minutes, 40 seconds.|
|Released:||January 14th, 1998|
Part legend and part reality, the image of the cowboy has a century-old grip on the American imagination; in popular mythology, the solitary, rugged individualist represents freedom and adventure. These icons of the Old West, however, may well be an endangered species.
The Last Cowboys is a captivating view of a vanishing lifestyle. Through documentaries like The Last Cowboys, public television plays an essential role in recording our nation's history for all to share.
The Last Cowboys provides an historical look at cowboys whose golden age spanned the post-Civil War years to the turn of the century. Many of the 40,000 young men an estimated one-third black or Mexican who sought money and adventure on the range were Civil War veterans who found it difficult to return to the conventional life they left behind. Since then, the essential cowboy lifestyle has changed little. As rancher A.C. Ekker asserts, "...those of us that were raised as cowboys still have the same respect for nature and for God and our animals that the old cowboys had."
The program visits three western ranches to illustrate the cowboy's legacy: the historic Dugout Ranch in the scenic redrock country of southern Utah; the legendary robber's Roose Ranch, once the hideout of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and their gang, the Wild Bunch; and the huge Fish Creek Ranch in the sagebrush flats of Nevada. Archival stills and paintings, including many by Frederic Remington, intercut with interviews of ranchers and cowboys, demonstrate that the essential lifestyle even clothing style is largely unchanged.
Despite the hard work, long hours and low pay, the modern cowboys profiled in The Last Cowboys are devoted to their way of life. Delmar Titus, the Dugout foreman, explains his affinity for this lifestyle: "...a beautiful place and country and doing what you like, why, hard work is the least of it, you know." In addition to horsemanship and roping skills, a cowboy or cowgirl needs "a lot of heart," as one veteran cowboy says: There are also times when the modern-day wrangler must be a veterinarian and protector of cattle as well as a herder. In addition, he or she must also know how to yield a branding iron. As narrator Joseph Campanella notes, "Good cowboys are hard to find."
The working cowboy may be disappearing from the American West, but certain traditions will probably live on through the rodeo. The Last Cowboys highlights competitive bronco-busting and cattle roping, sports that arose from the skills cowboys used routinely. Women are well- represented on the rodeo circuit, too. One of the featured competitors, Charmayne Rodman, has won seven consecutive world championships in barrel racing, an event that demands hairpin turns around barrels spaced only yards apart.
The Last Cowboys dispels some of the myths about the cowboy way of life, but in uncovering the reality, does nothing to diminish the romance.
The Last Cowboys won a CINE Golden Eagle award. John Howe, producer/director of the program, is the recipient of two Emmys and awards from the new for Houston and San Francisco International Film Festivals.
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