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Wednesday, 13 August 2008


By Clair Zarges of The Zees Go West

When I was a little girl I lived in a house near the ocean in San Francisco.

I wore jeans and cowboy boots, a Roy Rogers cowboy shirt, a Dale Evans cowgirl vest, and a Red Ryder cowboy hat. And every morning before I went out to play I strapped on the rhinestone-studded belt and holsters that held my two matching pearl-handled six-shooter cap guns.

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One of the highlights of my misplaced, cowgirl childhood was a trip that my family took a trip with some San Francisco friends down to Arizona, where we traveled up into the mountains and stayed on a for-real ranch that belonged to Jimmy and Jerry's grandpa.

A cowboy who rode a big black horse gave me a pony to ride. The cowboy's name was Rimrock and I named my pony Chauncey. Rimrock said that Chauncey would always be my pony even when I went back to San Francisco and he was still living his pony life in Arizona.

We "helped" the cowboys round up and brand the calves.

That night we ate Cookie's delicious beans and biscuits on tin plates while sitting around a campfire. Somebody had a harmonica and somebody else had a guitar and we all sang. It smelled like mountain air, pine trees, cattle, dust and the campfire.

After supper, we rolled up in blankets and lay down around the campfire. Just as we were falling asleep, we heard the sound of boots and spurs. It was Jimmy and Jerry's grandpa and he walked over to a wooden platform that had barbed wire strung around it, climbed up the steps, went through the little gate at the top, closed it and sat down on the bed that was up there.

We thought about that for a minute. Then someone called out, using his best cowboy talk, "Hey, Jimmy and Jerry's grandpa, what're you fixin' to do up there?"

Jimmy and Jerry's grandpa took off his for-real cowboy hat and hung it on one of the barbed wire posts. He said, "I'm fixin' to go to sleep."

We all thought about that some, and then someone else called out, "Well, how come you're up there on a platform with barbed wire all around and we're down here on the ground?"

Jimmy and Jerry's grandpa had set down his Winchester rifle on the floor of the platform and was practicing to see how quickly he could grab for it. He paused for a moment and looked down at us and said, "Well, somebody has to protect us from the slitherin' snakes, and the howlin' coyotes and the things that growl in the night."

We all lay there, wrapped up in our thin blankets down on the ground. We thought about snakes slitherin' and coyotes howlin' and the things that growl in the night. We thought for about two seconds and suddenly everyone rose up hastily from that dusty ground and there was the sound of hurrying footsteps and car doors slamming.

My Aunt Nellie put me to bed in the backseat of someone's big old Studebaker and she lay down in the front seat and went right off to sleep. Her snoring somehow sounded to me just like snakes slitherin' and coyotes howlin' and the things that growl in the night.

Meanwhile, back in the clearing, the only sound was the crackling of the campfire. If anyone else had been around, they might also have heard Jimmy and Jerry's grandpa up there on his platform, chuckling to himself, and saying, "Tenderfeet!"


[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a camper. The last time I had to go camping and sleep on the ground, I'd have given anything for the back seat of a Studebaker (or even a Volks) and a snoring aunt!!

That just completed the experience. Old cowboys have to be tricksters too:-) Fun memories.

That's a great story, Clair.

Being a born and bred city girl I would have been sitting in the Studebaker long before anyone talked about snakes and coyotes; just in case!

Thanks for a great story. I loved being reminded of how fun it was to play at being a cowgirl with my sister, Barrie. We spent hours galloping around our backyard.

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