Rodeo Queens and Me

Musings

I think perhaps the West was in me long before I was ever in the West. I saw this picture once where my mom was holding me—I was a toddler—and I was leaning over a fence feeding a horse an apple. I used to listen to Shania Twain a whole bunch even though her hit song ‘Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under’ was strictly forbidden in our household. Why, you ask? Well all that sexual innuendo of course. Though I didn’t get it at the time, I simply thought Shania’s man was a little negligent with his boots. Big whoop. I also wasn’t allowed to listen to Billy Ray Cyrus’s, ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ because he threatened that if you did tell his achy breaky heart he might blow up and kill a man.

My parents weren’t total squares; I think they really just wanted to do right by us kids and not have sex talk or blow up talk earlier than was necessary in life. One could reference our trashy next door neighbors as wayward examples of what happened to children with too much knowledge on the country music circuit; they once told me that God didn’t put the new baby in my mom’s belly but that my parents ‘really liked each other, if you know what I mean,’ with a suggestive wink. Sure. My parents really did like each other and that’s why God gave them a baby, obviously.

At any rate. It’s not just that I liked country music and horses and fields of grain or would bemoan when a Wal-Mart was put in where a field used to be. It’s that everything about the West already fascinated me. I read every story I could find about Sacagawea. In fact in sixth grade I read such a large book about her, that in a book reading contest, I earned enough points on that read alone to go out to lunch at Big Boy with my principal. Thanks Sacagawea.

Oh but I wished to be her so bad that some mornings I woke up in my pristinely pale Finnish skin and was aghast that I hadn’t dreamed myself a Native American leading explorers to greatness. And don’t even get me started on the explorers. Or the other Native Americans. Their drums and dances. Their traditions. The way they honored Mother Nature and carried babies on their backs while picking corn.

I couldn’t spoon that information into my mouth fast enough.

So when I actually encountered the West for the first time, it was as if I were returning to a place I already knew belonged to me. A place I had read about and entertained notions of grandeur for decades. Before coming back to Wyoming for a third time, I was lingering in Colorado and I found myself drawn to the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy. As I lazily ambled through the displays, reading about cowboys and cowgirls, I couldn’t help but feel intense admiration for the all the women who had inhabited the sport and the West.

I was struck by women who could stand on their horses backs while they galloped, women who influenced rodeo, or helped their husbands succeed. A part of me leaned into this like I had always leaned into the West.

Now don’t get me wrong. I in no way want to be a rodeo queen, that’s way too much bedazzlement for my tastes. Nor do I have aspirations of standing on a horse while he gallops. I would surely break my neck. But I do think these women, both the rodeo queens, cowgirls and pioneers of past and present are a source of deep admiration for life and possibility in the West.

I want to be like them, but still be me. I don’t care all that much about the fringe or the fanfare. Well, except, for my fringey Buffalo Bill Cody coat which I do bust out on occasion, because I can.  And yes, I do enjoy some fanfare in my life. No, it’s not that though. I don’t care about being the next best thing in rodeo or the West. That is not a goal of mine. My goal however, is to be the best version of myself here.

I want to be the best me in the West. If that means I can ride horses and lasso cows and listen to Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been under while donning a cowboy hat and boots, well then that’s mighty fine. And if that also means I am a complete contradiction to the girl I once thought I was, who hoped to be sophisticated and wear heels and have a brownstone and never listen to country music, well then, that’s okay too.

I am simply finding myself. And I seem to be as woven in these hills as intricately as the horses, cattle and buffalo are. Like I said, maybe the West was in me long before I even knew. And I simply had to find my way back to myself.

“For West is where we all plan to go some day. It is where you go when the land gives out and the old-field pines encroach. It is where you go when you get the letter saying: Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go when you look down at the blade in your hand and the blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you are a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear that thar’s gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go to grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is just where you go.”
Robert Penn Warren

 

Maybe the Country Songs are Right

Musings

Well, folks, it’s been just shy of one month since I left the East Coast and my love, DC and headed for colder weather. It’s not often people pack up to experience 50 degree temps on the first day of summer, but I haven’t minded it much. It feels like fall, and I pretend that it is, as a new season might mean I have moved past my heartbreak and am okay. It’s working a little.

I’ll refrain from crooning corny country songs, here, like it’s getting better all the time, or something about my achy breaky heart and instead say that I am finding the beauty in the struggle once again. If anyone knew anything about DC it’s that the man did indeed spoil me and made my life, well, cushier than I’d ever experienced before in my twenty-eight years. But now, it’s back to relying on good ol’ numero uno and that’s not so bad. It’s not so bad at all.

Like for instance I have been riding my bike a lot. Mostly because it’s pink and pretty, has a basket and it’s my new favorite pastime; but also because it saves on gas. There is something to be said about the wind whipping at my sides while I pump my legs getting in mile after mile on my own energy. It’s really rather therapeutic. Well that and my small supply of Xanax, which I almost lost on one said bike ride. I had some in a little zip-loc in my purse—ya know, for emergencies—and as I was making a sharp turn, my purse flopped open and the wind took the Xanax filled bag and carried it down the street. Immediately I turned and raced after it, feeling frantic—I’d already lost my heart, it was no good to lose my mind too. Eventually I caught up to the bag and ran over it with my wheel to stop its escaping. Close call. Oh Xanax, what would I do without you?

I have also been cooking a lot. To be fair I haven’t been experimenting as much as I had hoped (with new recipes and such) mostly because I’m poor, but I have rationed my four extra jumbo sweet potatoes I bought when I first moved here and have been making a slew of meals with those. I learned from my sis, who learned from a German she flirts with, who learned from Gordon Ramsay that I have apparently been making scrambled eggs wrong my entire life. So this morning I googled the aforementioned Gordon Ramsay scrambled egg tutorial and found by golly, I have been doing it wrong my whole life.

I have also learned the trick for not setting off the smoke alarm in my new apartment. It goes off if I so much as boil water for tea—and by tea I of course mean coffee in my French press. As I happily watched Gordon Ramsay instruct on of the most basic meals of mankind, I had a small fan churning out air pointed upwards at the smoke detector. Then I happily ate the last of my sweet potato stash which I cut up in mini pieces for a hash, accompanied by my new take on the scrambled egg.

And then I did start crooning corny country songs. All day I kept singing to myself, and it’s a great day to be alive, by Travis Tritt. I couldn’t help myself. It did feel great to be alive. Pain and all. Pain I was ignoring. Pain I was embracing. Pain I was masking. Pain I was avoiding. It didn’t matter. I learned how to make scrambled eggs the right way. I learned how not to set off the smoke alarm while frying those eggs. I learned that riding my pink bicycle might be one of the purest ways for me to feel joy. I learned that while yes, a man taking caring of me feels mighty fine, taking care of myself feels even better. And yes, Brooks and Dunn, I have learned that it is getting better all the time.