I used to be a cowboy and I used have a horse. Not a real horse, but an ironing chair that moved up and down a steel rod, stopping at chosen heights, with four feet splayed out for balance. It had a small back with a curved place behind it to tie on my “reigns” (Dad’s belts). I yelled giddy up and drove my spurs into the belly of the make believe stallion that would rare back, whinny and gallop away. I used to run away from Indians (straight shot) from my parents’ bedroom, across the hallway (huge boulders) and into the living room (a place like the Grand Canyon), and jump on my “horse” like they did in the Westerns I saw on TV. I would rock the green vinyl-covered chair back and forth in a mad gallop away from the Indians to safety. I could raise and lower the chair (big horse/pony) to accommodate my imagination. There were some pretty dangerous situations played out in my living room. Once, I was almost captured by the “Injuns” and my trusty dog growled them away. At another time, Daniel Boone, himself, showed up to slit some throats on my behalf and touched the front of his coonskin hat in a nod to my continued saved life. I outran rattlesnakes by day and slept around campfire by night. I could swing my leg around the neck of my horse and glide off as if I were a ballerina sliding off the back of my partner. I would run for cover behind a huge rock (sofa cushion) and kill at least a half dozen Indians with my cap gun so I could live to fight another day. It was a hard life, being a cowboy alone in the vast landscape with everyone wanting to kill me. Thank goodness I was saved many times when my mother called me to supper. Hey, a cowboy has got to eat.

I said I didn’t have a real horse, but I was a real cowboy.

Today, I think about my mother and what she heard and saw me perform. Was she happy her little girl had a good imagination? Was she amused I thought myself a cowboy? Did she  silently laugh as I played out scenarios, victorious in my battles with the Indians? I’d give anything to know these answers. Was she proud of me for being victorious? Did she ever play such games herself? Did she see herself in my play? I’m guessing she did. My mother was maybe a semester away from graduating with a bachelors in teaching History and close to having enough hours to become a nurse. Then she decided to move to where the action was (LA, California) and became a script girl for MGM, hanging out with people like Jackie Cooper (I have the picture to prove it) and was friends with Mel Blanc (voice of Bugs Bunny, et al) and his wife. She met my dad one night at the Palladium Ballroom in 1945 and was married two weeks later for a total of 58 years until her death.

I have a picture of her, about age 4, on the rooftop of her childhood home with her big sister, Eleanor. She is singing out loud and proud. She was unencumbered. She was unaware of any judgments. She was singing from her soul. She felt it. It was real. (Maybe she was a cowboy, too.)

This is how I see her, even today. A rebel, my mom. I try to live up to that, but a cowboy only has so many lives.


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