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Afghan Immigrant Becomes American Cowboy

There are many cowboys in America. But Miran Fareed is unique because he comes from Afghanistan. This immigrant does not live in the western U.S. like most American cowboys, but on the east coast in the state of Virginia. VOA's Jim Bertel narrates this report.

Cowboys practicing team roping is a common occurrence in Midwestern states like Texas or Oklahoma, where ranchers use these skills to catch cattle for branding or medical check-ups. But in the eastern state of Virginia, barely a one-hour drive from Washington D.C., it is somewhat unusual.

This cowboy is Fareed Miran and he was born in Afghanistan. " Well, the whole thing is a business, that is important to me because I make my livelihood out of it, and it is fun too."

Miran came to the U.S. from Kabul in 1984 as a seven year old. Not long after that his family bought a farm in Virginia. " When I moved here in 1984, we had horses and I rode. So my riding skills became pretty good, and it was just learning how to do the other stuff [other cowboy skills]".

Miran learned how to ride horses on his grandfather's farm in Afghanistan, but the "other stuff", like roping, he learned when he was in high school in the U.S. His teacher was an experienced Wyoming cowboy who moved to Miran's neighborhood in Virginia.

Miran's stepmother, Mimi Miran, says learning how to rope was just as natural for Miran as riding a horse. "This man, he grew up in the western state of Wyoming and he roped all his life. When he realized what a good rider Fareed was, he turned up one day with a rope in his hand, and that is how it started, and Fareed never looked back. He took to roping almost as quickly as he took to horses."

Roping is not reserved solely for cowboys these days. Anybody who feels that his or her place is in a saddle with a rope in their hand can call Miran and arrange for riding and roping lessons.

Miran's students range in age from young children to adults. Among them are Vanessa and Betty Ann. They read about Miran in a newspaper, and decided to learn how to swing a lasso [a rope with a noose], and do roping.

Vanessa is married, with three children, but still finds time for some western style excitement in the horse arena. "It is very exciting, it is challenging. Not a lot of women do it around here. So it is something that is really different. It is just an exciting sport, there is a lot of speed involved and it is definitely a huge challenge."

Miran's farm and the roping lessons attract people from many different walks of life. Jackson Taylor is a technology consultant. "I'm in (the) I.T. business. I work with information technology and wireless telecommunications. So, it is a good break from the daily grind of working 9 to 5 in I.T."

Rodeo sports, like roping, are growing in popularity in the U.S., especially in the eastern part of the country.

Rodeo shows and competitions are a perfect stage for ropers like Miran to show off their skills. When he is not teaching roping on his farm, Miran travels around the country taking part in roping contests. However, participating in team roping events can be expensive. But, if you are good at it, also financially rewarding.

"I go to big competitions, and I have won some and I lost some. But roping is just more fun for me and I turned this into a little business to teach people here in Virginia."

Miran has won numerous prizes including expensive saddles and cash awards. However, the horse farm business is still the main source of income for Miran's family. And the business is still expanding.

"We probably have 45 horses, 10 of my own. And then I have added additional things to it, such as riding lessons, roping lessons, training horses, buying and selling horses. This is the extra stuff I added to the business. Just like the little store here."

Fareed Miran, a cowboy born in Afghanistan is now, after over 20 years in the U.S., a fully assimilated American, a farmer and a businessman. But still, he often thinks about his native country, which he has never returned to since leaving for the United States.

"Yeah, I would like to go there to Afghanistan in my western clothes, and my western look, to show them that there is an Afghan cowboy in America".