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I AM CANADIAN: Western bars and beer are a great combination for some wholesome Thursday night fun.
Bapi Chakraborty/The Gauntlet

Cowboy crawl

All the fun you can have with your boots on

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I crashed hard to the ground and briefly wondered what on earth I was doing. My legs hurt a little, my groin hurt a lot and I felt dizzy despite the fact that the night had barely begun. It was my first experience with a mechanical bull and coincidentally my first experience at Ranchman's. Even though Bill (he rode the bull before me) gave me some great advice, I can't call my little escapade a success. Thank goodness for my good friend Jack Daniels, who quickly made the pain go away.

Here is a timeline of our Cowboy Crawl--a must for anyone new to town as well as those lazy Calgarians who never took the time to do it before. While it only took us one night to complete, I would recommend at least a night in each establishment to fully appreciate the charms of Cowtown and the four clubs that represent its spirit best.

Ranchman's, 9:30 p.m.

It was our first stop and as we would later realize, Ranchman's is the finest specimen of the pure "cowboy bar" our city has to offer. Line dancing, tight jeans and big ol' belt buckles were all around us. The country music was blastin' and our crew of confused university students took some time to recognize the undoubtable charm of the establishment. While Hawaiian shirts, Adidas sneakers and khakis didn't fit in here at all, we had a great time with the mechanical bull and I know I'm going back for another try. Next time at Ranchman's, I will wear tight jeans (will that help the groin or just hurt it more?), I will wear a cowboy hat, and maybe--just maybe--I'll even try to line dance a little. If the guy from Cool Runnings gave it a shot, why can't I?

Outlaws, 10:30 p.m.

Damn, we missed Foxy Boxing! We ran through the door just as the boxers were leaving, and I got a little upset. Not to worry though, Outlaws was where our fun truly began. You know those people who say they hate clubs, hate dancing and hate fun? I used to be one of them, but thankfully my misguided attitude changed and Outlaws had a lot to do with it. We had a couple of those people along on the trip and I'm proud to say some $0.50 draft and a little peer pressure led to all of them getting their groove on with big happy grins. But such is the charm of Outlaws, where you have to put in a lot of effort not to enjoy the dance floor that comes complete with a cage. Here, the Hawaiian shirts and khakis fit right in, as on Thursday nights there is a somewhat relaxed dress code and a younger clientele.

Desperados, 11:30 p.m.

Cautious parents often tell their daughters that boys are only after one thing. While that claim is hard to dispute, Desperados taught me a very important lesson. Women are after that one thing as well. That's why every lady in the bar seemed to be wearing a variation of a popular garment called the "tank top." I could notice this mundane detail, you see, because Desperados has some funky layout where you can go on a balcony and look down on the whole bar and most importantly the dance floor. From my vantage point up high I realized the club was packed and it was a shame we had to go, because the rye and gingers were delicious.

Cowboys, 12:30 a.m.

I think it's safe to say this place kicks ass. It's been called a meat market, a cheesefest and I've heard people say they would never want to walk through its doors. Those people are stupid, not to mention useless,
misguided and socially deviant. If you go
to Cowboys with the right attitude and you don't have fun there must be something seriously wrong. As Calgary's biggest western bar, complete with a meat market, busty waitresses and handsome bouncers, Cowboys is exactly what you want it to be. If it was a club full of ugly people, why would you want to go there?

While I'm sure Vitamin S and silicone play roles in the charms of the place, Cowboys is unmistakably the essence of Calgary. You'll have a blast there whether you see our city as a rich oil town, an unappreciated western metropolis or a culturally devoid hell hole. If you go, bring your friends because Cowboys is best done with a bigger group. Have a few drinks, shake your rump on the dance floor, and maybe you'll forget how much you hurt from that damn mechanical bull.

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