Time to Cowboy-Up

Skin-thickening lotion hits the Montana market.

Ever wish you were a little tougher? Specifically, do you ever wish that you didn’t have to suffer through an endless litany of blisters, burns, slivers, cuts, and abrasions—or, for that matter, criticism, differences of opinion, or slights real and perceived? Then grab a tube of Cowboy-Up, and you may just become a lot less delicate.

Developed by Bozeman rancher, off-width climber, and inventor Ian Volnerbelle, Cowboy-Up is a topical cream designed for hard-working, hard-playing Montanans. The lotion contains used tractor oil, bull-elk testosterone, and whiskey, along with SPF 50 sunscreen, 40% DEET, and a proprietary molecular binder called Epidermisteel, which not only promotes thicker, tougher skin, but produces a fascinating and valuable side-effect: mental fortitude.

We all know someone who could use a thicker skin.

Dr. Jesse Feckette, who oversaw the clinical trials of Cowboy-Up, says, “We were surprised and pleased to discover that it doesn’t just physically thicken patients’ skin—it also reduces stress, increases positivity, and makes subjects more universally likeable by reducing entitlement and quieting the urge to criticize what others are doing.” In subsequent trials, it was shown to help people who feel unjustifiably marginalized or threatened. “All these thin-skinned Karens and Kens who complain constantly about being a victim of this or that,” says Feckette, “probably just need a little Cowboy-Up in their lives. Either that or a really hard winter.” 

We all know someone who could use a thicker skin: the millennial who melts down over “ageism” and gendered bathroom signs; the guy who feels personally targeted when it’s suggested that waiting periods and background checks for gun purchases are a rational idea; men who feel threatened by a female boss; women who feel demeaned when men open doors for them; anyone who regularly visits Reddit.com. And then there are the rock climbers, skiers, and ultrarunners who have endured annoying blisters, cuts, and abrasions for years, and can always use a little extra epidermis. “I was skeptical,” says Bozeman ski-mountaineer and frequent courthouse protester Ben Medling. “But I’ve found that Cowboy-Up not only made my feet tough as nails, it reduced the number of f*#%s I give about what other people choose to do with their lives. And that’s a real gift. For everyone. Especially my roommate, who rips bong hits and does interpretive dance to techno-rap all day, while collecting unemployment. As long as he does his dishes, what do I care?”

 cowboy up cream

Richard Small used to troll the Bozeman Daily Chronicle Facebook page all day, where he posted hateful, ignorant, and grammatically criminal rants grounded in conspiratorial right-wing nonsense. He finally tried Cowboy-Up—to reduce thumb blisters from playing Fortnite 16 hours a day—and is almost 80% less mentally warped than before. “I still think the Chronicle is crap,” he says. “But I haven’t been compelled to lash out violently at complete strangers in weeks, and it feels great. Plus, my thumbs have never felt better.”

Another local user, Equality Jones (actual name), who works as a barista, amateur tattoo artist, and self-described “social-justice stormtrooper,” found that Cowboy-Up not only eliminated the painful burns she normally endured from scalding vegan soy-milk foam, but also focused her constant and vocal outrage from ancillary bullshit like whether elk hunting is ethical, to more legitimate issues, such as integrating postmodernist theory into children’s coloring books. “It really helped me see that not everything is worth bitching about,” she says. “Just the other day, instead of screaming, ‘Shut the ‘f*^k up, fascist!’ I said, ‘I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.’ I’ve never even thought those words before—they just came out. It felt kinda weird, but in a good way.” 

People with thicker skins are undeniably happier, more social, more adaptable, and more successful.

Volnerbelle, who has applied so much of the lotion to his own hands that he recently beat Shaquille O’Neal in a promotional bloody-knuckles match, is surprised by the unintended consequences of his invention. “I basically made the stuff for myself, ‘cause I was sick an’ tired of my darn fingers bleedin’ all over the steerin’ wheel. But when Feckette told me ‘bout how it was helpin’ all them saddle-sore pantywaists, I gave it to my daughter. She’d just come back from her first year at Portland State and was gettin’ all offended by things I said. I told her it was moisturizin’ cream. Took less than a week for her to stop callin’ me an ignorant old fool!”

The sum-total physical and emotional benefits of Cowboy-Up are still being studied, according to Feckette. “But what is clear,” he says, “is that people with thicker skins are undeniably happier, more social, more adaptable, and more successful,” he explains. “It seems crazy that something as simple as a hand lotion could make such a difference—it’s almost as if these people made a conscious choice to change their attitudes."

Given the drug’s initial success, an extra-strength Cowboy-Up version is in the works, with three additional ingredients: ground porcupine quills, CBD oil, and stem cells from Charles Bronson’s grandchildren. “With this considerably higher level of potency,” says Feckette, “there’s no limit to how much progress one can make toward not being such an emotional hemophiliac. I’m not saying it’s a panacea for over-sensitivity—as Plato said, even utopia has a few whiny little bitches—but the potential is very exciting."

To learn more, visit cowboyupcream.com.