‘Yellowstone’ Creator Taylor Sheridan Celebrates Modern Day Cowboy

by Leanne Stahulak

Part of what makes “Yellowstone” so great is how authentic it feels. And it wouldn’t feel so authentic if creator Taylor Sheridan didn’t understand the modern cowboy.

Sheridan opened up about his cowboying journey in the foreword to a photography book by Anouk Krantz. Titled “American Cowboys,” the book catalogs the life of the modern-day cowboy in gorgeous black-and-white photographs. And Sheridan’s foreword to the photography book perfectly sums up the cowboy spirit embodied in “Yellowstone.” Cowboys & Indians recently printed the foreword on their website.

What Does ‘Yellowstone’ Creator Taylor Sheridan Say About Cowboying?

To start off, Sheridan details how some industries, like farming, evolved with new technology. But Sheridan says that “cowboying is the antithesis of evolution.” The reason? There are some things only a real person can do when it comes to living and working on a ranch.

“Technology can’t coax a timid colt through a creek. It can’t rope a bull bogged in a river. It can’t pull a calf that gets turned in the womb, nor can it breathe life into one’s nostrils when born on a subzero night,” Sheridan writes. “These are tasks of the cowboy.”

The “Yellowstone” creator also explains how you can’t call cowboying a “job,” necessarily. After all, “Jobs come with regulated hours and a clearly defined description of duties. The cowboy’s job changes daily and ends when it’s over.”

To be a proper cowboy, you gotta be able to work independently or in a group environment. And you can’t just be “okay” at the job, because either an animal or fellow cowboy’s life could rest in your hands.

Sheridan dismisses cowboy stereotypes. He says a person of any gender or race can be a cowboy, and that you’ll be judged by merit and nothing else. “If a true meritocracy exists on this planet, it exists on a ranch,” Sheridan says. “You will be judged, for certain. From the moment you arrive on the ranch until the moment you leave.” But only by the actions you take on the ranch.

What Cowboys Sacrifice For Doing What They Love

“Cowboys will start work before the sun rises and quit only when told,” Sheridan continues. “They will work these seemingly endless hours for wages our government considers illegal. And on the weekends, they will likely ride their horses and rope more steers—the very things they were just underpaid for all week. And they’ll do it for free.”

The “Yellowstone” creator explains all the injuries cowboys face — from concussions to broken bones to loss of limbs. But there’s nothing else they’d rather do for a living.

“Cowboys do not look at their profession as a career: it is a lifestyle that coincidentally pays. It is self-reliance elevated to an art,” Sheridan writes.

He’s experienced that self-reliance himself. Sheridan ends the foreword with a glimpse into his time gathering cattle on the Four Sixes. At one point he got lost, but when he found the cattle and the other cowboys again, he saw a sight of Texas that he’ll never forget.

“As the sun broke free of the horizon, twenty cowboys sat horseback looking out over cattle stretched to the horizon. The cowboys to my right were silhouetted, but to my left, they were bathed in the soft, amber light of dawn. And below us, all of Texas. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” Sheridan concludes.