Saturday, August 15, 2009

Are Cowboys Calvinists?

Because of the focus on right and wrong in many Cowboy songs, Bill G. asked in the comments of the previous post: "Are cowboys Calvinists?" While Calvinist traces are certainly evident as Bill has noted (think of the Calvinist work ethic in When the Works All Done Next Fall), the evidence suggests a broader ecumenical outlook, tinged with Eastern mysticism. For your consideration:

1. Many cowboys eschewed instrumental music, even the lowly harmonica, and instead utilized the acapella yodel to calm a restless herd. This suggests a close connection with the Church of Christ.
2. Tyin' Knots in the Devil's Tail shows an affinity with Assembly of God theology.
3. Happy Trails seem a clear tie to the positive thinking of the Unity movement here in Kansas City.
4. Cool Water, when read metaphorically, is a Baptist song, calling for water sufficient for total immersion.
5. Open fellowship around the campfire (Blazing Saddles anyone) is certainly an inclusive approach fostered by Disciples
6. And finally, this poem by Wallace McCrae called Reincarnation shows how cowboys could incorporate Eastern religious thinking into their view of life and death:

"What is reincarnation?" A cowboy asked his friend.
His friend replied "Well Son,
it happens when your life has reached its end.
You see, they comb your hair and they wash your neck
and they clean your fingernails.
And they put you down in a batted box
far away from life's prevails.
Now the box and you goes in a hole
that's been dug into the ground.
And reincarnation starts
when you're planted beneath the mound.
You see the box melts down just like the clods
with you who is inside.
And then, you're just beginning your transformation ride".

"Well, in a while some rain's
gonna come and fall upon the ground.
'Til one day on your lonely little grave,
a little flower will be found.
And say a hoss should wander by
and graze upon the flower
that once was you but now becomes
a vegetative bower.
That little flower that the hoss done ate up
with all his other feed
becomes bone and fat and muscle,
essentials for the steed.
But some he's consumed, he can't use.
So it passes through.
Finally it lays there on the ground,
this thing that once was you.

And then say that I should wander by
and gaze upon the ground.
And wonder and ponder
on this object that I've found.
Well it sure makes me think of reincarnation,
of life and death and such.
And I ride away concludin' -
You ain't changed all that much"

This leads me to believe that cowboys were not Calvinist! But I could be wrong.

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