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Give a man a horse he can ride

Has a word or a line of a song suddenly popped into your consciousness after laying hidden away in the dark recesses of your subconscious and forgotten for years or decades? Yes it happens. When I was in high school in the 50's our high school band and choir went to a one day county music festival every year. We competed against the bands and choirs from the rest of the county. Instrumental and vocal soloists, quartettes and octets competed too.

If you didn't sing or play vocal or instrumental solos, as I didn't, you watched the cream of the county's crop perform at their best. Suddenly, I have just remembered, out of the blue, a solo for baritone voice -- "Give A Man A Horse He Can Ride." For some young man, just starting to shave, to be invited to sing such a man's song had to provide a huge boost for his young-male ego. Some of the lines were, "Give a man a horse he can ride...Give a man a boat he can sail...Give a man a pipe he can smoke...Give a man a book he can read...Give a man a girl he can love (as I, my love, love thee)...And his heart is great with the pulse of fate, At home, on land, on sea." I was very impressed by the young man with the deep voice who sang that song and I was impressed by the song. I must have been if I remembered after all these years.

But even before we had fuzzy cheeks, our boys choir director had us singing songs like, "Stout Hearted Men" that goes "Give me some men who are stout hearted men who will fight for the right they adore. Start me with ten who are stout hearted men and I'll soon give you ten thousand more..." All boys want to be men and those songs pumped us up about the prospect of growing up strong and brave. Music and the arts can contribute to that ideal as much as football and the other sports.

A while back I heard about a couple of guys who were on the football team who were also in a musical. Some of their football teammates gave them a tough time about being in a musical -- must not have seemed masculine enough for those tough guys. That attitude probably said more about the insecurities of the macho guys than about the masculinity of the singers. It is not a negative to be well rounded it is a strong positive. Are the toughest guys the best guys? Sometimes they're the biggest bullies. I've known a few jocks who were seriously abusive bullies. Is this "dissing" football players? No, I played some football -- high school and (small) college. Not a big deal, but I was there. What I noticed was that a guy doesn't suddenly become any more masculine when he straps on shoulder pads and a football helmet. He doesn't become any more masculine when he sings about horses to ride or stout hearted men either for that matter. And he becomes even less masculine when he shows contempt for women.

It is important that boys become men, but it is a mistake to think there is a single path to that destination. Sports may help him get there, but so may music, art, science, math, literature, poetry, history, after school jobs, carpentry, auto repair, farming, baby sitting, military service, love, marriage, fatherhood, police duty, fire fighting, manual labor, delivering papers, a regular paycheck, a mortgage, making payments, disappointment, failure, responsibility and a thousand other circumstances. There are many ways to get there and it's never too late.