Cowboys in a country far far away

It’s Stampede time again and this year it is in full force – the weather is beautiful and everyone is hollering a collective Yahoo! Cowboy boots are out of storage, and hats are being dusted off.

But for those who are not from Canada, or indeed North America, the cowboy culture might seem a little unreal. Probably because we have only really seen it in the movies before. Growing up in the UK you were more likely to see someone walking down the high street in a kilt than see someone wearing a cowboy hat. But don’t get me wrong – we knew ALL about cowboys. We watched all the films on the tele. Sunday afternoons were the reruns of all the old popular films and my dad would get very excited if there was a western. In his words there was nothing better than a good shit kicker.

High Noon with Gary Cooper. God knows how many times that film was played on TV. Yes we watched it several times. But the all time favourite of the family was the tv series Rawhide.

Clint Eastwood was the best

But let’s not forget the Lone Ranger – Hi Ho Silver, Away! was his cry as he jumped on his white stallion. I think this film was made in 1956. The Lone Ranger was always followed by his trusty sidekick Tonto

Now if my dad were here today he would say “Aw, they don’t make films like that anymore!” which is true. But can you believe that they have done a remake of The Lone Ranger and Tonto is totally weird in that one. He looks like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Cannot believe it – I just read that the remake (2013) was done by the producer of Pirates of the Caribbean. And no I did not know that when I typed that comment above. And Tonto was played by – YES – Johnny Depp. Anyway, the film bombed. Lost nearly $190 M. Don’t worry – Disney can afford it. Yeah, I don’t think my dad would have liked this remake.

So cowboys was very much a thing of films and the past and it was a real eye-opener watching Cool Runnings, set in Calgary, with real cowboys at Ranchmans. When we finally got our permanent residence for Canada we told the boys that we were leaving Africa and we were going to live in Calgary, Canada. “Where’s that,” they asked. “Do you remember Cool Runnings? Well that’s the town we are going to live in”. They were SO excited. Of course, the first things we had to buy when we came to Calgary were cowboy boots and cowboy hats.

Many Stampedes later and now I am quite used to seeing the streets of Calgary populated by cowboys and cowgirls. And yes I have a cowboy hat, the jeans, the shirt. It’s part of the tradition. It has to be done. I am heading out to Ranchmans tonight and no, I will not be getting on the mechanical bull. Instead I will be nursing a cold glass of wine and taking in the sights –

By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.


  1. I, too, watched westerns on the ‘telly’ in England (when TVs were scarce). When I came to Canada as a youngster I had images of cowboys and Indians riding along the roads (as we took a bus from Edmonton to Red Deer). It was a culture shock but the Calgary Stampede is another way of life. I love it, it is Calgary, it is our history and something we are all so proud off.


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