Being a Cowboy is a “State of Mind”

As a young boy growing up in Lebanon, I watched the “Lone Ranger” and “Bonanza” on a small black and white screen and was mesmerized with it all.  I also played cowboys and Indians with my friends and always wondered what it would be like to live it for real; I mean to be a real cowboy!

Later on when I was a teenager, I had to leave Lebanon due to the civil war that raged on for a number of years.  I first landed in London, England on a temporary basis while waiting for my Canadian landed immigrant status to be granted so that I can make Calgary my new home.  It was at that time that I formally met my uncle’s friend Hassan Shibley, who was to be my immigration sponsor. Hassan, who also came from an immigrant family, was also a very proud Calgarian, something he proudly shared with everyone. He regaled me with stories of actual cowboys and Indians that lived in Calgary and I could hardly wait to get to Calgary so that I can see that for myself.

I landed at the airport on July 2, 1977, and when Hassan picked me up to take me home, I had fully expected to see people riding around on horses on the street.  Much to my disappointment, everyone was driving a car.  It was about a week later, when the Calgary Stampede Parade was on TV that I got to see my first real cowboys and Indians. 

My first Calgary Stampede Parade - what a rush that was.  Two years ago, I got involved with the Promotion committee, and the Harry The Horse committee. After becoming involved with the organization, I finally understood what the Calgary Stampede was all about. Preserving and promoting western heritage and values.  Sounded good to me and I jumped in with both feet.  2011 was my first Calgary Stampede where I participated as a volunteer instead of a spectator and I have to tell you, it was one of the best experiences in my life.

Whenever I went to volunteer at a committee function and put on my cowboy hat, my favourite western shirt, my Wrangler jeans, and my official Promotion Committee belt buckle, my wife, who comes from a ranching background, would jokingly tell me that I looked like a drug store cowboy.

Having been a city slicker all my life, I knew that I would never be the real deal, so a drug store cowboy was close enough for me.  But in the back of my mind, I wanted to be closer to the real deal and started making changes in my life to move towards the cowboy life style.  I have since purchased a quarter section east of Calgary, purchased four heads of cattle and a horse, and I expect to be living on my mini ranch by year’s end.  As for the drug store cowboy, it was not till my good friend Kevin Hogg told me that being a cowboy is a “state of mind” more than a birth right.

So here I am today with my new found “state of mind”, preparing for the Calgary Stampede Centennial knowing this is going to be the one of the greatest events in my life

Reflecting back on my boyish days, I certainly never in a million years imagined that I would be on a different continent, in a different country, involved in The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, playing a cowboy and having the time of my life while realizing my dream.

So the moral of my story to all the little boys and girls out there, dare to dream and dream big.

Tony Watfa