If there’s any upside to the global quarantining and social distancing that’s going on due to the coronavirus, it’s the fact that certain professionals all over the world are discovering new skills and hobbies while temporarily prevented from doing their usual jobs. Tim Tiller, a security guard at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, recently became something of an overnight celebrity due to the fact that the museum he works in was closed down to the public. In the absence of having his usual duties to do, Tiller took over the museum’s social media accounts, and almost instantly racked up huge stats with his folksy witticisms and endearingly self-conscious messages to cowboy fans all over the world.
There’s a certain alchemy to this kind of content. Tiller’s dad jokes, accompanied by his genuinely deep knowledge of cowboy culture and images of delightfully banal yeehaw aesthetics, all add up to pure gold and positivity. On Twitter, Tim has been signing off every tweet with his name; this is a classic indication that someone not generally familiar with social media is attempting to get the hang of things.
Accidentally locked myself in the Prosperity Junction Jail! Actually it’s a strap-iron cage. When towns didn’t have a jail they’d use cages or just chain you to a tree. See you all Monday! If I can find the key. LOL! #HashtagTheCowboy Thanks, Tim pic.twitter.com/eYgJFmjU9y
— Nat'l Cowboy Museum (@ncwhm) March 28, 2020
Excited to share this with you. Welcome to Prosperity Junction! It’s our replica of a turn-of-the-twentieth-century cattle town. It’s my favorite part of the Museum because I love the Old West and here I can be a part of it. Hold onto your hats! #HashtagTheCowboy Thanks, Tim pic.twitter.com/kbk1bsc3UJ
— Nat'l Cowboy Museum (@ncwhm) March 26, 2020
On Instagram, meanwhile, Tim has been poking fun at himself while simultaneously keeping readers informed with genuinely interesting facts about historical artifacts.
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Lots of people are asking how I ended up doing the social media. The answer is that I got roped into it. LOL. Check out this twisted rawhide rope the Argentinian Gauchos would use. Gauchos were the South American equivalent of the American Cowboy. It’s from Argentina around 1880-1900. Leather, iron. 1983.62.37 #HashtagTheCowboy Thanks, Tim
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Some of you have been asking about African American cowboys. Did you know that roughly one in five cowboys was a person of color, either African American, Hispanic, or American Indian? They worked as trail hands, cooks and horse wranglers. Some black cowboys became famous bronc fighters like “Bronco” Sam Stewart, Bob Lemons and “Bones” Hooks. #HashtagTheCowboy Thanks, Tim
The flip side of delightful content like this is the dark underbelly of the American museum world: all across the country, museums are laying off part time employees who don’t have the luxury of being able to pivot to social media work like Tiller can. While there’s nothing wrong with being delighted by cowboy-themed dad posts on Instagram and Twitter, it’s necessary to keep paying attention to laborers who’re finding themselves without income during the coronavirus crisis. After this is all over, some people will be able to go back to work, but many others won’t be able to for a number of different reasons. Those circumstances can’t be easily laughed away.