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Twelve years ago, Miami lawyer Joel Perwin arrived home from seeing the movie “City Slickers” and told his wife she had three options: He was going to buy a motorcycle, have an affair or go on a cattle drive. His wife’s response: “Happy trails.” Perwin was in his early 40s and suffering a midlife crisis when he was inspired by the comedy in which characters played by Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby rediscovered their youth driving cattle through the plains of Montana. A prominent appellate attorney at Podhurst, Orseck, Josefsberg, Eaton, Meadow, Olin & Perwin in Miami, Perwin has argued dozens of cases before the Florida Supreme Court. At the time of his “City Slickers” epiphany, Perwin and his wife, Jean, had a waterfront home in Miami Beach, two beautiful children and all the trappings of success. Still, Perwin felt bored, stagnant and trapped. He started questioning his and Jean’s decision to leave the political scene in Washington, D.C., 10 years before. The Harvard Law School graduate wrote speeches for Vice President Walter Mondale and served as counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee under Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts before heading back home to Miami as Ronald Reagan took office in 1981. A decade later, Perwin’s old political buddies were getting plum jobs in the Clinton administration and he began to feel out of the loop. He needed something more. “It was an undefined sense of restlessness,” the 54-year-old Perwin said. “It’s why men dump their first wives for trophy wives and take up skydiving. They’re looking for some kind of thrill.” Watching the “City Slickers” rope cattle, navigate rough terrain and get downright dusty reminded Perwin of his childhood fascination with cowboys. He recalled his hero worship of the Lone Ranger and begging his parents to send him to horseback-riding camp when he was 10. Although he hadn’t saddled up since grade school, Perwin called Larry Rochkind, his best friend from Coral Gables, Fla., Senior High School, and told him the plan. “I called up Larry in Michigan and told him we were going on a cattle drive,” he said. For the next two months, Perwin drove to a friend’s ranch in Homestead, Fla., to take riding lessons on weekends and after work. By summer 1992, he and Larry were ready to be cowpokes. Their first trip was a week of rounding up cattle for a family-owned ranch in Glendive, Mont., just east of the North Dakota border. For the first time, Perwin couldn’t be interrupted by phone calls from the office or urgent requests for legal briefs. It was just him and the Wild West. “I’d go a whole day without thinking about work,” Perwin said. “All I worried about was not falling off the horse.” Out on the range, Perwin was also free to engage in juvenile antics with his high school buddy, sneaking up on Larry to take pictures of him urinating in the wild. “The minute we get together, we regress to high school,” said Perwin, who has photos of Larry relieving himself on every trip since 1992. “And our wives aren’t around to give us dirty looks.” Since then, Perwin has spent a week every summer driving cattle in Arizona, Wyoming or Montana. He and the other hands cover five to 10 miles a day, whooping and hollering to keep the herd moving toward greener pastures, going slow enough to make sure the cattle don’t lose weight. Each is a valuable commodity, worth about $500 a head. It’s a duty that gets them up before sunrise and keeps their hides in the saddle eight hours a day. “I’m popping pills all day. Tylenol. Advil. You name it,” Perwin said. Six years ago, Perwin started going to Bar-B-Ranch in Davie, Fla., to keep in shape for the drives. Every Sunday, he puts his prized possession — a custom-made McLelland’s saddle — in the trunk of his black Lexus and heads northwest. Riding every Sunday morning, Perwin said, helps him cope with his latest challenge — the empty-nest syndrome. With his son at Harvard University and his daughter graduated and working for New Line Cinema in New York City, he and Jean have entered a new phase of life. While Jean goes to dance class, Perwin hops onto his favorite horse, Bosco, and heads for the oak groves in the Robbins Open Space Preserve near the Bar-B-Ranch. He and a handful of other expert equestrians return to the compound after a two-hour ride exhilarated and refreshed. Jean watches her husband pursue his hobby with quiet bemusement. “Cowboys are my weakness,” Jean said, with a hint of sarcasm. “I think it’s great. Whatever gets you through.” And the midlife crisis? It’s gone. Eleven summers of cowpoking took care of that. “It definitely gave me my fix,” Perwin said.

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