Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Passing on the stories

by Julie Carter

The Native Americans pass legends down through the generations by way of designated storytellers. It's the job of a gifted tribe member to be the keeper of the ancestral legends and pass them on to the next generation.

Cowboys do much the same thing. The Native American storyteller will have a name like Grandmother Two Bears or Old Father Story Teller. The cowboy will simply be named Ben, Joe or Charlie.

If those same fellows were in a tribe somewhere, they could possibly be labeled with names such as Man Who Walks Like Penguin, Hitch in the Get-a-Long or Redman Lump in Jaw. Old cowboys tend to be shorter than they were in their youth, a bit bow-legged and waddle when they walk.

The days of that long-legged strolling stride left when the "itis boys" (Arthur, Burs and Tendon) showed up in every limb of their body. What they don't have left in athletic ability has been enhanced with humor and their imaginative re-telling of "cowboy legends."

The number of topics from the old days when cowboys were king is endless. First, know that things were bigger, better and wilder "back then." They may not be able to accurately give you their wife's full name, but they can name every one of the ill-headed horses they rode during the past 40 years.

In every story of every wreck they were ever in that involved a rope and cow, they can also describe, in detail, the appearance, personality and pedigree of the horse they rode. However, the re-telling is not always in a verbiage fit to repeat in polite company.

For whatever reason, that same horse will consistently either be the best he ever rode, or the sorriest. There doesn't seem to be any recollection of any mediocre nags from that era.

The topic second in line for the windiest stories includes incredible tales of snakes. There are generations of big ugly diamondbacks that slithered into bedrolls, traveled up a catch rope to meet the roper or fell out of a tree on the unsuspecting cowboy riding by.

Snakes, in their mystical ability to strike fear in the heart of all men, garner a corner of cowboy history dedicated to that species. Ask any old bowlegged, cowboy-booted hombre you run into for his best snake story. It is guaranteed he will have more than one.

Additionally, there are the "goin' to town" stories. In the old days, not so long ago, cowboys went to town only to buy a few groceries and other necessary supplies.

During that same trip they might eat a steak at the local restaurant, spend a couple bucks for a haircut and then while away a few hours of sundown time at the local watering hole, imbibing in adult beverages.

One of my favorite cowboy storytellers told a great tale that had all the going-to-town ingredients. He gleefully recalled, often upon request, riding a young green-broke horse into a bar.

The blaring jukebox music didn't frighten the colt until it stopped and then the silence brought him to life. He blew up, fell over on the pool table and in doing so, seriously broke the cowboy's foot. Decades later, the cowboy delighted in detailing the reason for his obvious limp.

The cowboys that fill my pages with their stories had no expectations that their shenanigan-nonsense could entertain so many. I delight in being able to pass on those reasonable presentations of the truth.

Julie, a designated cowboy story teller, can be reached for comment at jcarternm@gmail.com.

Julie has pretty well described herself when she writes about designated Native American and cowboy storytellers. 

I wonder what the Native Americans would call Julie as a result of her sharing the "ancestral legends" of the cowboy. I can't think of anything with Grandmother or Old Father in it that fits. 

Maybe Chronicler of Cowboy Culture. No, that sounds too official. 

How about Puma with A Pen. No, she's too nice. 

Julie is more than a writer of course, so how would they describe the whole package, the Julie Carter of today? 

 I know, Carter The Cancer Slayer

Yeah, I like that.

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