In this study, historian Michael Allen examines the image of the rodeo cowboy and the role this image has played in popular culture over in the 20th century. He sees rodeo as a significant American folk festival and the rodeo cowboy as the surviving avatar of a nearly vanished authentic figure - the ""real cowboy"", who embodies the skills and values of traditional western rural culture. Allen's provocative analysis explores the evolution of the myth of the rodeo man and its subsequent institutionalization and acculturation into the media of popular culture. He discovers that America's fascination with the rodeo cowboy reflects feelings far deeper and more complex than a taste for exciting entertainment. This popular culture hero survives in our national imagination as a kind of living, contemporary ancestor, linking a largely urban population with its rural past and recalling the values and spirit of a time and region that most Americans perceive as somehow purer, freer and more noble. Allen's discussion of the archetypal figure of the rodeo cowboy aims to change perceptions of rodeo, but it will also help the reader to understand how the ancient tension between frontier and civilization continues to play a role in national imagination of the USA.