Monday, August 11, 2008

JOURNAL EXCERPT: May 20, Sat. 1978 6:45 PM

"J. G. quit working at the Avalanche Journal newspaper. They forced him to quit because he was 67. He's a tough old bastard as far as surviving goes. He was working on his ranch and driving the A. J. country truck at the same time. Now I guess he'll just be working on his ranch."

MANHOOD REDO: Work has long been a key part of male identity, and been a way to prove your masculinity. To not work is to lose your sense of self. To not be successful at work is to fail as a man. This probably explains the men who are workaholics. Of course now that women have become a significant part of the workforce, they have some of the same issues since masculine expectations have defined most of our workplaces - at least those not identified with females.

I don't think J. G. was a workaholic even though he probably worked 12 hour days much of the time. I'm pretty sure he just needed the money. His ranch couldn't have been huge, and I would guess that, in the same way small farmers were struggling, he was being squeezed out as ranching became more corporate. I remember him responding angrily to being pushed to quit. I hadn't ever really thought of him as a cowboy, but that makes sense now. Maybe his black horn-rimmed glasses threw me off. He always wore a cowboy hat and boots. Larry McMurtry wrote an essay called, "Death of the Cowboy" for the New York Reveiw of Books. The trappings of the cowboy life still exist - rodeos, horse riding, the Western gear - but the practice has changed significantly. Most large ranches now incorporate more than just raising cattle into their business portfolio as part of their survival strategy. They've become big business.

J. G. was a cowboy, dying.

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