To many, the spur-booted buckaroo in the ten-gallon hat may represent a time gone by. But the American cowboy is still alive and well -- and it's not too late to join his (or her) rangeland ranks.
Across the West -- and even in New England -- real ranches, rodeos and cattle drives aren't just preserving the frontier spirit, they're actively practicing it.
Many are open to the adventuresome traveler.
Ranches, cattle drives, bull riding -- the life of the late-1800s Western superhero is available to all travelers (with good health insurance).
Cowboy Level: Urban
The self-proclaimed Cowboy Capital of the World is stocked with guest ranches and real ranches, welcoming dudes (according to Merriam-Webster, "a city dweller unfamiliar with life on the range") as well as legitimate ranch hands.
It's practically impossible to pass through town without seeing a rodeo. Horses tied to hitching posts aren't uncommon.
There are more than a dozen guest ranches to choose from, but among the most historic is Dixie Dude Ranch, which has lured wannabe wranglers since 1937. An overnight trail ride includes chuck wagon meals and storytelling by the campfire.
The cowboy authenticity ends where the massage therapy and pool begin.