(This image from http://www.cowboyway.com/CowboyPictures1.htm)
Well, honey, m-m-m, there's lots of different kinds of cowboys. There are tv and movie cowboys, rodeo cowboys, cowboys who WORK and drugstore cowboys who say, "Aw, y'all kin jist call me 'Tex'."
The ordinary tv cowboy is sort of a ringtailed curly wolf who uses his sixshooter to unlock doors, turn out lights, tenderize the skulls of badmen, and even though he misses lots of shots at close range (So the show won't end too soon), when the bad buy is about to go over the last ridge and escape jusice, he can shoot him out of the saddle.
Many movie and radio cowboys can play the guitar and some can sing; others sing whether they can or not. One was called the "King of the Cowboys", but most cowboys refused to kneel and bow to him, so they probably had no hand in crowning him.
Rodeo cowboys are ringtailed curly wolves who can prove it, and do, every time they make a good ride, or throw a fast and powerful steer. They might be veterinarians or ranch kids who go to college, but their reputation and status don't do much to impress the bulls, broncs, and calves-something more is required.
Sometimes the rodeo cowboy is actually a working cowboy in his spare time. Of course, some of them get fired for making the whiteface calves manshy, or for teaching the boss' hot-blooded parade horse to buck. but others can toss a bale of hay higher than anyone else on the ranch, and rodeo just because they are young, tough, and fun-loving (They need fun, too, if they get up before daylight every day of the year to irrigate, or start a tractor, or get out to feed stock in a blizzard.) And it could be, like your uncle Rube Moss used to do, that the winnings will go to pay the hospital bill when the next son or daughter is born. When a man has lots of kids, he has to figure out all the possible ways to make extra money.
Beginning rodeo hands, or young cowboys of most types, for that matter, look down upon dudes, and these city slickers retaliate by calling cowboys "hicks" and "farmers", but it seldom comes to more than that, except perhaps in the vicinity of some bar on a Saturday night.
Some working cowboys don't care for bronc-busting- they avoid it if possible, like your daddy used to do. It might be that the only time they do a first-class job of bronc-twisting is when there are so many yucca plants, or boulers, that it's just not smart to get thrown. when they become good ropers or wild cow milkers, it's because it was in the line of duty. Sometimes a man has to learn to rope, if he isn't fast enough to outrun a horse or calf, and get a halter on it.
The drugstore cowboys knows big hats and high-heeled boots carry a certain romance with them, so he buys the best he can afford, and hangs around western bars and rodeos and sales barns and livery stables until he learns the ling-occasionally, one of these learns to ride and rope amazingly well, and perhaps even play the guitar.
Many cowboys wear big, heavy, hot hats, along with pointed-toed, high-heeled boots. Of course, these hats are darned practical in a rainstorm, and do furnish protection against the hot sun, too. And the high heels keep a man's foot from getting caught in the stirrup, on a bucking horse (Some ranchers do blame their baldness and stacked-up "hammer toes" on this gear.). Actually, on a working ranch, you might find the men wearing work shoes and baseball-style caps more often the the traditional dress, and they wait till their day off to dress up.
So, honey, if you want to tell what kind of a cowboy a man is, you'll have to watch him working. Another fair way, and pretty accurate, is to remember that if a man is really a cowboy, he doesn't spend much time bragging about it.
(I imagine that this imaginary conversation was thought up in response to my cowboy-loving brothers Jamie and Kirby, both of whom have grown up learning everything "cowboy", and have published western novels together.)