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California ranchers are unhappy that the federal government wants to replace branding cattle with electronic chips placed in cattle’s ears. The chips make a lot of sense on many levels. It’s not the 19th century anymore. It’s also far less cruel to the animals. But people are moaning about the dying West. Then again, the West has been dying ever since it was discovered in the 1880s. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, The Virginian, early conservation laws, the western, the writings of Edward Abbey, etc., have all bemoaned a lost West. Of course, cowboys still exist by the thousands, even though their very dangerous labor is forgotten about by the larger society. I’ve driven around the West multiple times with people whose jaws drop upon seeing a real life cowboy. But Western development has always used the most modern technology masked with a veneer of rustic romanticism–mining technology, dams and the incredibly sophisticated water systems that allow western cities to grow, logging, agribusiness. Cowboying too, especially in the 21st century.

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