Wednesday, May 21, 2008


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.

One of the highlights of my misplaced-cowgirl childhood was a trip that my family took 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 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!”


Another example of Jimmy and Jerry's Grandpa's sense of humor

(Photos by my dad)


Akkire said...

This is your for real childhood memory? Claire, I didn't know! It sounds fun, and adventurous, and like you were destined to go to the west.

Anonymous said...

Ohhhh I love that story. I felt like I was right along with you. Even got the shivers up my spine over "slithering snakes". LOL


Jean (aka Auntie Bucksnort) said...

I remember all of this! Everything! ok... I know I can't possibly remember this since I couldn't have been more than a few months old at the time, but I've heard about our family's Arizona Adventure from our parents more than a few times, seen the photographs dozens of times and now... now I get the real deal. I get the joyful detailed account of what really happened through the eyes of the Little Buckaroo.

I swear I can see it and hear it and smell it. Thank you once again Clair for taking your little sister on another adventure from our childhood.