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James Giago Davies: Just when did we become a state of cowboy hats?

We are men of many hats

But mostly cowboy hats and biker doo rags
By James Giago Davies
Native Sun News Today Columnist

Why is it that when men stopped wearing hats back in the late 1960’s, they didn’t also stop wearing cowboy hats?

Not only did they not stop wearing them, these days they won’t take them off. There’s an old picture of early Rapid City, all the men in the dining room are hatless. Next time you’re in a restaurant, check out how many men take their cowboy hats off.

I get the sneaking suspicion there are far more cowboys than there are ranch jobs to keep them busy. A large segment of the population has got to be role playing. I played cowboy when I was a kid, buckle on a twin set of cap guns, walk bow-legged, saying, “Ching, ching, ching…” so people understood my spurs were going jingle-jangle.

In the old days, most everybody dressed like a cowboy. Even law enforcement dressed up like cowboys. If all the cops in Rapid City dressed like Matt Dillon, what would it hurt? The tourists would love it.

For some reason dressing like the butcher, the baker, or the candlestick maker never caught on. If your doctor was dressed like a cowboy, you wouldn’t be especially alarmed. But if he was dressed like a biker, you might be, and if he dressed like a scuba diver or circus acrobat, you probably would change doctors.

If Stephen Hawking had been born a cowboy in Belle Fourche, would he have dressed like one in his wheelchair? What if he had been a biker? I can just see him at the Rally in Sturgis.

At least cowboys have a job, well, some of them, so when they are out working the range, cowboy up, I say, punch them doggies. But what about bikers? What job did a biker ever actually have historically, even presently? Marty Jackley is from Sturgis. Do you think he could beat Kristi Noem if he dressed like a cowboy? He might. Do you think he could beat her dressed as a biker?


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James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at

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