As American Cowboy embarks on its 20th anniversary, we took some time to peruse our archives for inspiration. After some pokin’ around, we could think of no more appropriate reprint than this initial letter from the editor. Amazingly, the cultural forces in play 20 years ago aren’t that much different than the ones we’re facing now. What’s more, we’d like to think that our response to today’s culture is in the tradition of the men who penned this letter all those years ago (Jesse Mullins, editor, and Bill Bales, publisher). For the remainder of the year, we’ll be celebrating our 20th with throwback content. We’d love to hear what the magazine has meant to you. Feel free to make comments on Facebook, shoot us an email, or take pen in hand and let us know what role American Cowboy has played in your life. —Bob Welch

Letter from the editor, from the very first issue of American Cowboy magazine 1994:

What We Learned

Issue I, 1994

Times like these call for special qualities. In our lives, we’ve all known fat times and lean times, whether it involved scratchin’ out a living, setting things straight or finding a true friend. There are times when you rest easy, knowin’ that we’re all making fine progress down the road, and then there are times when you feel like it might be a good idea to backtrack a bit and set things right.

Will Rogers once said that “All I know is just what I read in the newspapers.” We think that’s the way a lot of folks are, and the things we read in our newspaper tell us that the world is looking for that marker on the trail it might have missed somewhere. You have two choices when you start getting the feeling you’re in unfamiliar territory. You can keep pushing on the way you’re going, making good time, even if it’s making you uneasy, or you can turn around and get back to the last fork in the trail where you felt comfortable with the scenery.

You read a lot about a lack of values these days. The papers tell us about young folks falling in with the wrong crowds or losing respect for the sacrifices and sweat that earned us so much of what we still enjoy. They tell us about businesspeople cuttin’ corners they should’ve squared up, or public servants serving interests of their own. There’s talk of crimes rates continuing to climb and morals continuing to slide.

We think that following the ways of the American cowboy is one method of getting us back on the right path. Wherever this country parted company with the values cowboys hold dear is where our trail maker sits, and where the cowboy stands ready to ride point once again.

Cowboying is more than an occupation. It’s a state of mind. More than that, it’s a set of values, a standard and a way to live and believe. The values of the American cowboy will never go out of style. Things like shooting straight with people. Working hard. Being loyal. Helping folks when they’ve been thrown from the saddle.

Armed with these values, this country can answer the problems the newspapers keep reporting. Kids can hope for a better life. People can feel respectable when they respect the land they live in.

One more thing about cowboys: they are always learning something new, whether it’s about livestock or ranching or just making their way in the world.

We’ve been learning a few things about ourselves. One way of figuring out something new is by doing it, and during the launch of this magazine, we learned something new every day.

We learned we’re good at doin’ what we’re told. What you hold in your hands is a whole lot of followin’ other folks’ advice. But we also learned that you don’t have to look hard to find something worth learning more about.

We learned that folks are always ready to lend a helping hand. It’s been humbling to be given so much help without even having to ask. Thanks to all the writers who heard about us and contributed their fine writing. Thanks to our advertisers for believing in us enough to put their ads in a magazine that wasn’t yet a reality.

This issue is just a boot in the stirrup. We’re standing here by this trail marker, hoping you’ll throw in with us, glad to be on our way. We’re ready to mount up and start down the path that, God willing, will never play out and will be a happy trail for all.

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