Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Confessions of a Michigan cowgirl

 By S. Derrickson Moore
Kids playing all over the world, but especially kids born in America, grow up as cowboys and cowgirls.
It probably comes a little more naturally if you’re born on a ranch in, say, New Mexico.
But you’ll find a way to cowboy up, even if you’re born in suburban Michigan, where the sand is not a desert, but the shores of a Great Lake.
You’ll ride the range, sing the songs and aspire to wear the hat and boots with spurs that jingle, jangle jingle.
I know. I was a Baby Boomer Midwesterner, and a dedicated cowgirl as far back as I can remember.
I can’t recall visiting a farm until I was in high school, and I confess I didn’t make it to a state fair until I moved to Las Cruces when I was in my 40s.
But it’s not as if I was a cowgirl who never saw a cow. Through some fluke of zoning, one of our neighbors was allowed to raise a calf on a large plot of land that adjoined our backyard. Poor Nicky had a brief, but I like to hope exciting life, figuring heavily in some inept roping, branding and rustling dramas staged by imaginative kids in our neighborhood, before disappearing mysteriously one day. We later discovered, to our horror, that Nicky’s fate was to become the young and tender burgers at a lunch play date. To this day, I can’t bring myself to eat veal, perhaps proving that I never had the stomach to be a real rancher.
But that didn’t mean I couldn’t be a cowgirl. I remember picking up lots of tips from the original Mickey Mouse Club, which offered the exciting “Spin and Marty” series at a dude ranch, along with all kinds of cowboy and Indian lore. They sang to us about the legend of the White Buffalo and how we’d see it, if our hearts were brave and true and we treated all men as brothers.
Our parents were not immune to all this cowpoke excitement. They were easy touches for cap six-shooters, BB guns, bows and arrows and cute little cowgirl outfits. My father, an aircraft engineer, took to wearing what looked suspiciously like a 10-gallon hat with his three-piece suits. I still remember how pleased he was, during a business trip to New York, when someone asked if he was a Texas cowboy.
The older I get, the more I understand those don’t-fence-me in cowboy urges for land, lots of land, and the starry skies above.
As Las Cruces becomes more urban, I find myself gravitating gratefully toward any bucolic encounters.
Every now and then, I take a little lunch-time detour to greet a horse discovered in a pasture in Mesilla or Picacho Hills or linger after an official assignment to commune with the cows at the farm and ranch museum.
And I understand why “Star Trek” creator, El Paso native and wannabe space cowboy Gene Roddenberry dreamed of the final frontier, where we could boldly go where no man (or cowgirl) had gone before.
The cowboy way transcends traditional genres and time and space. It’s about freedom, adventure, rugged individualism, courage, integrity, creative coping strategy and yes, style.
There’s an art and science to it all.
It’s bigger than the Wild West, America, or even planet Earth.
That’s why we founded Cosmic Cowgirls and Cowboys, a wild and wide-ranging outfit that might spontaneously add you to the herd at any time.
Late Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh and his wife Patsy were charter members. Artist Sallie Ritter was instantly recruited for her visions of Western skies and an extraordinary painting in shades of cosmic cowgirl blue.
You could be roped and wrangled in the next cosmic roundup. Yippie yi yo kayah.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @Derrickson Moore on Twitter and Tout, or 575-541-5450.

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