posted by dpm on 06/01/2012
Climbers like to think that they're a funky, diverse, eclectic bunch of individuals. Truthfully, I've never seen a more homogenous bunch of wealthy, white people. But every so often, I run into a climber that is shockingly unique and different. He calls himself, "the Last Cowboy."
I ran into this individual while driving across the open plains of Wyoming. A herd of cattle had blocked the road, so I waited patiently for the ranch hands to clear the path. At the back end of the cattle drive, a lone figure crested the hill on horseback. His image appeared gradually as he trotted toward me; first the Stetson hat, then Carhart jacket and tight-fitting Wrangler jeans that did little to hide the enormous bulge beneath them. His boots were pulled up over his pant legs and a blade of straw hung from his lip. As he passed by, I noticed that one thing was different about this cowboy. He had a crashpad strapped to the back of his steed.
I whipped the car to the side, jumped out and shouted, "Hey cowboy!" He turned around slowly, spat on the ground and replied, "Ya," in the same tone he used to address his cattle. And so began my fascination with the last cowboy. I followed him back to Montana and he allowed me some insight into his life. The last cowboy is a man of few words.
The Last Cowboy. Photo: Gordon McArthur
DPM: Why do you call yourself "the Last Cowboy?"
TLC: My mom was a pregnant rodeo clown and my dad was a bull rider. They both died at the horns of that giant bull, that day. I was born right there in the rodeo ring, the only child and the last of my line. My first breath was of dirt, dust, and dung. I imagine my last breath will be the same.
DPM: Who raised you then?
TLC: The Ranch. I was cleaning cattle by the age of two.
DPM: Why do you rock climb?
TLC: Why do you ask so many dumb ass questions?
DPM: Well, a lot of people say, "because it's there."
TLC: Because what's there?
DPM: The mountain or the rock...
TLC: (blank stare)
DPM: Some people say that climbing is a way to express themselves. You know, like they're an artist and the rock is their canvas.
TLC: Who says that...? Pussies and idiots I reckon.
DPM: I've never met someone with such pure intent. You're a real soul searcher and truly the last of your kind.
TLC: Now you're startin' to piss me off a bit. I reckon we better end this now before I whoop your ass.
DPM: Apologies. Just a few more though. What was one of your proudest ascents and what did it mean to you?
TLC: Ride a bull for eight seconds and tell me you're proud of climbing a rock.
DPM: How do you fit into the climbing community? What is your role and how do you give back?
TLC: My community is 800 head of steer. My role is to make sure they get where they need to be so hippies in Boulder can pay 10 bucks a pound at Whole Foods for their free-range, grain fed beef. Grain fed...What the hell else do you feed a cow?
DPM: What inspires you?
TLC: Cold hard steel, wind and rattlesnakes.
DPM: What do you do to condition your core and upper body? What about finger strength?
TLC: There ain't no hand workout like tugging a teat. For core I ride bareback.
DPM: Who are your climbing heroes?
TLC: Heroes don't have heroes. I'm the last cowboy goddammit.
DPM: What are your pre-climb rituals? Yoga? Breathing exercises? Stretching?
TLC: Pppffftt. Pussies and idiots.
DPM: What are your thoughts on the progression of the sport.
TLC: I heard that auto racing, bull riding, and mountain climbing are the only real sports...all others are games. I reckoned I'd knock two off that list and it sure as shit ain't gonna be bull riding.
The Last Cowboy was kind enough to let me tag along for the day. I kept my mouth shut to avoid getting my ass whooped and let him do the talking. Click the image below for video.