Portrait of a real life Cowboy- Louis Cusimano, A True American Hero
Story and photos courtesy of Connie Vigil Platt, Newark, Ohio
There are not many real cowboys left in the world of today. Hollywood portrays them as hard drinking, hard fighting drifters, spending their pay in the bar and on saloon girls, or having a shootout on the street. Perhaps at one time some of them were like that. Most of them were hard working honorable men.
The six-shot revolver has been considered to be a cowboy gun, yet few men had one. It cost a twenty-dollar gold piece or a month’s wages to buy one.It was not something to be carried every day and risk losing on the prairie. So, lay to rest the myth of a shootout at high noon. If they carried anything, it was usually a lever action rifle in a saddle scabbard. This was used for predators such as snakes or coyotes.
There is not much need for the old-time cowboy today. The day of the lone man in a line shack with nothing but his dog for company passed into history a long time ago. These were the men that pioneered the west and made it what it is today, a place safe for women and children. It is unfortunate that they are a vanishing breed. Soon they will be as rare as the bald eagle. Horses have been replaced by pick-up trucks and tractors.
But there is still hope----as long as little boys ride stick horses, round up imaginary cattle and tip their hats to little girls, the way of life will continue.
There is an old saying “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Growing up in Southern Colorado in the vast high desert, I was fortunate enough to have known some of the finest cowboys and ranchers in the southwest. By that I don’t mean men that wore big hats and pointed toed boots to attract the girls. I mean men that made their living in the hot sun and dust of the corral.
A cowboy is more than a horseman. He cared for the land before it was politically correct. He is chivalrous to the ladies and generous to little children. He is a knight in dusty boots instead of shining armor.
Although clothes are an important part, as certain garments are traditional. For instance, the kerchief can be pulled up to cover the face in a dust storm, wipe the sweat out of your eyes or bandage up a cut, a blindfold for a spooky horse, in a pinch it can be used as a sling for a hurt arm. A wide brimmed hat keeps the sun out of your eyes and the rain from falling down the back of your neck. Leather chaps protect your legs from brambles and cacti. They also keep you warm in the winter. Pointed toed boots make it easier for your foot to slide into the stirrup. The high-heel keeps the foot from slipping all the way through the stirrup. Everything has multiple uses. When all you have is what you can carry in your saddle bags, you must make the best use of everything.
Louis Cusimano - A Real American Hero
Although Louis Cusimano is retired; when he was young he was one of the best possible cowboys around. He could stay on the bronco horses, throw a long loop to catch a steer and always tip his hat to a lady.
He has a way to talk to animals. They respond to his commands as if they instinctively know what he wants them to do.
To watch him working with his cow dog was like watching poetry in motion. Whistling and with a movement of his hand the dog herded the cows wherever he wanted them to go. His movements might not be noticeable to anyone watching but the dog was ever alert and quick to respond.
He was in high demand by the local ranchers for his ability to handle animals. On the back of a horse he was a centaur, horse and man blending into one. With a nudge of his knee his cutting horse “would turn on a dime”, as the saying goes. He always knows what horse is best for each task.He has worked on some of the biggest and most influential ranches in the southwest.
He worked long days, often unsaddling by lantern light, yet his animals always came first. He brushed and fed his horse and dog before he stopped to rest.
He comes from a ranching background and his parents were respected members of the Southern Colorado Ranching community.
His son Chuck Cusimano, now a third generation cowboy, continues the tradition in living the cowboy way of life. His son Jay Cusimano is a saddle maker in Southern Colorado to keep the custom alive. With men like this the cowboy way will continue to flourish. The memories will never die as long as the wind blows, the grass grows and the water flows.
If you should happen to visit with Louis Cusimano of Colorado you would find a quiet, shy, unassuming man. You would never suspect by his manner that he was a Hero. He is the stereotype cowboy complete with guitar.
In the early days of World War II, Louie entered the elite fighting force of the U.S. Marines. After training, he was sent to the Pacific Rim. There, he was in the first wave of Marines in the Battle of Okinawa. It was men like this that won the war for our side. He doesn’t like to talk about his war experiences. I had to pry the information out of him. Just as with most Heroes he doesn’t think he did anything special. He feels he was only doing his duty to his country. I knew him for fifty years before I knew he had been in the service. It is people like this that should be honored.
When he reminisces he prefers to talk about his cowboy days both before and after the war. After he was discharged from the military service,
he went right back to herding cattle. He was considered to be a top hand and in demand by many ranchers in Colorado and New Mexico.
As a young man, when he was not on the open plains riding horseback he was playing dance music with a group of friends.
Their band, “The Frisco Canyon Ramblers,” was always in demand and drew a large crowd of admirers to dance and listen to the music. The band broke up when members moved away for personal reasons.
In retirement, Louis writes cowboy poetry and tells in song and story about a way of life now gone. Although it is fun to reminisce about the old days, we can’t go back and nobody really wants to live that way.
Anyone would consider it a privilege and an honor to call Louie Cusimano friend.
A poll was taken a few years ago that said the American Cowboy is as much a symbol of America as the Statue of Liberty.
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