A pair of American Eagle jeans, a clean pair of boots and listening to the newest jam on your country radio station. You claim to be a cowboy or to be "country," but I have news for you: what makes a country person isn't based on material things. Being "country" is a lifestyle, it's about something deep inside.

There's an absolute freedom in being country. A freedom you cannot find trapped within city limits, or in the walls of skyscrapers. A freedom you won't understand until you've watched a sunrise from the tops of mountains. Until you've ridden a horse across the hills, just letting go of the reins and letting them run. Until you have watched a newborn calf try to take his first steps, the steam still rising up off his body. Until you've watched a sunset from the cab of a tractor, you won't understand the freedom of being country.

The freedom is not without cost. Being country is earned through the blood, sweat and tears of many people. It costs calloused hands from hours of hard work, the old men who drink coffee together who are missing fingers, or show scars that tell the story of their lives. It's getting kicked by the calf that you are trying to treat, or being chased by that same calf's momma. Being country is being the mother who wakes up, makes breakfast, helps her kids with 4-H chores, takes them to school, spends the rest of the day helping her husband in the field, picks up the kids, makes dinner, helps her husband move fields and then goes to bed only to wake up and do it all again the next day. The tears come to the rancher who has stayed up all night with that calf, foal, lamb or piglet, only to have it die in their arms. The tears come to the farmer who stares out at a field that has been destroyed in a hail storm. The freedom that comes with being country isn't free, but it's worth it.

Hard work, love, freedom, and many other pillars make a person country. A country heart shows to other people. It's a huge heart, a heart so obvious and so different that you cannot deny it's existence.

It's in the little cowboy practicing roping on a roping dummy, and the grown-up cowboy who throws up his hands for a new personal best time. A country heart is in the little cowgirl, who carries bottles out across the farmyard to feed the hungry calves and in the mother who watches her carefully from the back porch step. It is in the farmers who leave before the sun comes up and return after it has disappeared. The country boys who wear Wranglers and spend the day pounding fence posts have that heart. The country girls and farmer's daughters who can throw bales of hay and drive combines have that kind of heart too.

Being country isn't something you have to be born into, but it's not something you can just claim. If you haven't earned it, don't tell me you're country.