Today’s equivilent to cowboys in the American mythos is the truck driver.
“America is replete with icons, the most famous of which is the American cowboy. We all know the image well: the cowboy on the range, with a six-shooter on the hip, the horse and the approaching ride off into the sunset. He symbolizes America’s desire of a never-ending movement westward, itching for adventure, resolute on manifest destiny. He is everywhere.” https://medium.com/@StormFoxEsq/the-myth-of-the-american-cowboy-22260d0fecd8
“The portrayal of the trucking industry in United States popular culture spans the depictions of trucks and truck drivers, as images of the masculine side of trucking are a common theme. The portrayal of drivers ranges from the heroes of the 1950s, living a life of freedom on the open road, to the depiction of troubled serial killers of the 1990s. Songs and movies about truck drivers were first popular in the 1940s, and mythologized their wandering lifestyle in the 1960s. Truck drivers were glorified as modern day cowboys, outlaws, and rebels during the peak of trucker culture in the 1970s.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trucking_industry_in_American_culture
Nowadays the reality of work for truck drivers is very far from that romantic icon. Our media report a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers and extremely high turn-over (translation: truckers are quitting and seeking other work). There are those who deny that this shortage exists and that truckers are well-paid. Here, from satirical commentator John Oliver, a real muckraker if ever there was one, is an explanation of why being a truck driver today is not what it was.
The reason truck driving is not a good living any more is how trucking companies take away from their drivers so much that they are left with a paltry income with few, if any benefits. This situation, for me at least, is evidence of why labor unions are necessary to get wage-earners a fair salary and benefits.
What really sucks is that those wage-earners have been convinced that unions are somehow bad for them. They have (and I am not just talking about truckers now) wages that in real terms have been stagnant for decades. Add to that “independent contractors” and other catogories that give workers no protection against employer abuses, and you have the reason that blue-collar families feel they have been ignored, disrespected, and abused by just about everyone. I include in that the Democratic Party, which used to be their advocate in government. Of course it includes the GOP, which sides with employers and owners every time. It is no wonder so many were attracted to a demagogue like Trump who at least acknowledged and praised them. I question whether he or his have actually done anything at all for them, but he does acknowledge them.
Our economy, despite inflation, is in very good shape, but too many people who work for a wage feel left out. I don’t blame them.