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07.11

The American Cowboy

By Terrance Malkinson

The recent death of actor James Arness (26 May 1923 – 3 June 2011), who personified the Dodge City Marshal Matt Dillon in the prime-time classic Gunsmoke, has renewed interest in the important role of the cowboy in American history. In the 1950s and 1960s, cowboy stars of the movies and television such as Roy Rogers, Have Gun Will Travel, The Cisco Kid, The Lone Ranger, The Rifleman, Bonanza, RawhideGunsmoke and many others were icons watched by young and old alike [www.angelfire.com/film/cowboystars]. Western genre reruns continue to attract an audience because of the timeless messages of personal values and strength of character in a lifestyle much different from contemporary society — and yet so important to the history and development of America. Country music continues to be inter-generationally popular with “songs that tell a story,” as is the case with the written literature.

The word "cowboy" appeared in the English language around 1725 as a translation of the Spanish word “vaquero,” an individual who managed cattle while mounted on horseback. By the mid 1800s, “cowboy” evolved to mean an adult cattle handler of the American West. Working long days, cowboys experienced many obstacles and dangers. In the 1890s, fenced cattle ranges and the growth of the railroads eliminated the need for long cattle drives and the working ranch cowboy resulted.

Women of the west who worked on cattle ranches also played an important role in the development of America. The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame [www.fwmuseum.org/national-cowgirl-museum-and-hall-fame-1] gathers and documents the important contributions of women.

Today, there is little understanding of the realities of agricultural life and where our food comes from. The ranch cowboy is responsible for feeding livestock, branding and earmarking, treating animal injuries, patrolling the rangeland in all weather conditions, checking for damaged fences, controlling predation, locating water, moving the livestock to different pasture locations, herding them into corrals and onto trucks for transport and many other skilled activities of importance to the success of the ranch. We often forget the importance of these individuals for the supply and quality of our food. An article [“Why Farmers Need a Pay Raise”] in the most recent issue of The Futurist and discussed in “Other Bytes” below outlines the growing food crisis and the need to support our agricultural community.

The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum [www.nationalcowboymuseum.org] is America’s leading institution of Western history, art and culture. This museum, located in Oklahoma City, collects, preserves and exhibits a collection of Western art and artifacts, and sponsors educational programs and scholarly research generating interest in the enduring legacy of the American West.

Other Bytes

Here are some of the things going on in and around the community:

  • Africa is today the world’s third-fastest growing region. Consumer demand is enormous and some of the world’s biggest opportunities are available in the nations of this continent. GDP over the past decade has grown by 4.7 percent a year and in 2009 was valued at $1.6 Trillion. Mutsa Chironga et. al., in the McKinsey & Company research study of Africa’s economies [“Cracking the Next Growth Market: Africa,” Harvard Business Review, 89(5):117-122, May 2011, www.hbr.org] offer their analysis and provide strategies for business success in this continent full of emerging opportunities. This economic analysis of the continent and its consumer markets concluded that we should not ignore Africa, but rather increase our understanding of how to manage risks, deal with gaps in infrastructure and recognize the diversity of the African markets.

  • Julian Cribb is an agricultural policy watcher and in his article “Why Farmers Need a Pay Raise” [The Futurist, 45(3):43-45, May-June 2011, www.wfs.org ] discusses how global commercial trends threaten farmers’ livelihoods and consequently the global food supply. He discusses the important issues and concludes that funding must be provided to develop innovative water and land management practices, increase agricultural R & D support, launch public education programs, and provide fairer incomes to farmers worldwide. Should this not occur then food will become scarcer and costlier in the future.

  • Joel Klein spent eight years as chancellor of New York City’s school system, America’s largest. In “Scenes from the Class Struggle” [The Atlantic, 307(5):66-77, June 2011, www.theatlantic.com ] he shares his insiders belief that American education needs to “be gutted before it can be reformed”. The author discusses how America developed an “enormously successful middle class” through education during the first three-quarters of the 20th century however this changed since 1980 and a large number of people are not learning the skills necessary to be successful.

  • The June 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review [89(6)] spotlights product innovation. Four articles — “How P&G Tripled its Innovation Success Rate” pp. 64-72, “The Ambidextrous CEO” (pp. 74-80 ), “The Innovation Catalysts” (pp. 82-87), and “Innovating on the Cheap” (pp. 88- 94) — provide two company stories, information on how leaders should manage tensions between core businesses and new-growth initiatives, and a look at products that could probably be launched without doing any Research and Development. In the sections introduction the editors state “New-product development involves some art, some science and some serendipity.

  • Entrepreneur has published its annual evaluation of the “brightest ideas, hottest industries and the most insightful innovators in “100 Brilliant Companies” [39(6): 63-74, June 2011, www.entrepreneur.com]. Leaders in ten areas are profiled.

  • In a special report in Wired [“Smart Jobs,” 19(6):121-135, June 2011, www.wired.com], Adam Davidson discusses how work is available and taking root in new technology corridors, booming towns, and in surprising fields.

  • Two analysts, James Irvine and Sandra Schwarzbach describe twenty innovations that they believe will have the biggest impacts in the near future and five prospective technologies that could have major repercussions in the longer term [The Futurist, 45(3):16-24, May-June 2011]. In addition to discussing these innovations interesting insets on The Socio-Technological Age Progression and Emergence of the New Social Structure starting with the agricultural age and progressing through the industrial age, post-industrial age, information age and through to the projected robotic-biotech age are provided.

 

 

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Terrance Malkinson is a communications specialist, business analyst and futurist. He is currently an international correspondent for IEEE-USA Today's Engineer, an associate editor for IEEE Canadian Review, and a member of the editorial advisory board of IEEE The Institute. He was Vice-Chair of the IEEE-USA Communications Committee (2004-2010), and editor-in-chief of IEEE-USA Today's Engineer Digest (2004-2008). He was an elected Senator of the University of Calgary and an elected Governor of the IEEE Engineering Management Society as well as an elected Administrative Committee member of the IEEE Professional Communication Society. He has been the editor of several IEEE conference proceedings, and past editor of IEEE Engineering Management. He is the author of more than 420 publications, and is an accomplished triathlete. His career path includes being an accomplished technical supervisor and medical researcher at the University of Calgary a business proposal manager for the General Electric Company, an associate for Sears Canada Inc. and research administrator with the School of Health and Public Safety/Applied Research and Innovation Services at SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary Canada.

The author is grateful to the professional support of the Haskayne School of Business Library at the University of Calgary. He can be reached at todaysengineer@ieee.org.


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