No Life for a Lady, by Agnes Morley Cleaveland. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1941.
The whole time I was reading this old New Mexico classic, I was thinking, "Oh, this is the life I was meant to live!" I had been a little misplaced buckaroo, living out my early years in San Francisco, playing cowboys and Indians on sidewalks. Agnes Morley, some 70 years before, was the cowgirl I might have been, if not for the fact that I lived in the wrong time and place.
Agnes was born in New Mexico in 1874. She tells of her life on the family ranch near Datil, and what a life it was. Outlaws and six-shooters and horses and bears. Stage coaches and log cabins and cattle and long, lonesome trails. Here are a few of the chapter titles from the book, just to give you the flavor: While Clay Allison Shot Up the Town; A Fatherless Swiss Family Robinson; Cows Were Our Universe; Twelve Pupils: From Six to Six-Shooter; and Cowpuncher on a Sidesaddle.
In these modern days when children aren't allowed to play outside unsupervised, it just livened me up to read the chapter called "Put a Kid on a Horse," which tells of communication between far-flung ranches in the days before telephones. If a message or some letters or most anything else needed to be delivered over the next mountain, these early ranchers did, indeed, put a kid on a horse to deliver what needed to be sent. Starting when she was 11-years old, Agnes and her younger brother, Ray, made a twenty-mile round trip singly or together every week to Baldwin's (later Datil) to carry the mail bag to and from their ranch.
Much later, Agnes was driving a wagon to the town and back, all alone. Here is what happened:
Once, when I had stopped to 'noon' on a trip to town and my team was feeding, I climbed back into the high seat of the wagon and picked up a book [CZ note: She's a cowgirl and she loves to read, no wonder she's my heroine!]. I did not hear the silent footfall of a horse and was startled when one of the team snorted. I looked up to see a horseman beside the wagon. He was a Mexican, swarthy and begrimed. He looked at me curiously.
'You all alone?' he asked in his own tongue. I told him I was.
I could read puzzlement in his face. Mexican girls did not go about alone, even in our country.
'Why you all alone?' he persisted.'Have to,' I told him.
This seemed to puzzle him all the more. He sat looking at me intently.
'You not afraid?' he asked finally.'No.'
'Why you not afraid?'
I reached under the edge of the Navajo blanket that covered the sea and pulled out my little thirty-two.
He nodded approvingly.
'Bueno,' he said, and rode on.
If you can find a copy of this book (which is still being reprinted), I would highly recommend that you spend some time with it, dreaming about old-time New Mexico and the life that should have been mine.
|No life for a cowgirl!|