Cowpokes for Christmas

Recently I spent the night at my daughter’s house in Nyack, NY, for a belated holiday get-together we hadn’t been able to get together until well into the New Year. Nelly usually goes down for the count right after wrangling my two grandsons, Eli (9) and Noah (5) into bed, so she had thoughtfully prepared a special activity to keep me occupied so she could collapse: a plastic tub full of old photos. Some years before I’d passed on to her the mantle of family archivist (she has a bigger attic), and this tub was part of the collection. Wise Nelly: I was pawing through it for hours.

I was also thinking about the American Myth part of our play, Journey from the East, and hoping I’d find some vaguely remembered pix of me playing cowboy when I was a kid. Man, did I hit the mother lode! For Christmas the year I was Noah’s age and my sister Lynn was 3, we BOTH got Wild West outfits — she got to be sharpshooter Annie Oakley, while I was given an entire Hopalong Cassidy rig (which included not only the chaps, the shirt, the double six-guns, & the hat, but also, oddly, hair training lotion). Here we are:

In front of a Christmas tree, a 3-year-old girl in an Annie Oakley outfit opposite her 5-year-old brother got up as Hopalong Cassidy

Annie Oakley meets Hopalong Cassidy

Note the difference in our expressions; if this were a real shootout in Tombstone, I know who’d be bitin’ the dust the next second, and it ain’t the one on the tricycle!

The West has had a powerful hold on the imagination of grownups as well as children in this culture, and not just in the twentieth century, and not just in the U.S., either. So the next few blogPosts will explore this idea from a number of different angles.

To begin with, it occurred to me that there just might be others in our extended gang of Touchstone Pilgrims who might have similar stories — and maybe even photos — that they’d be willing to share, so I put out a general call for stories of their experience of the Old West myth, and any treasures they may have hiding in a plastic tub or shoebox somewhere… Let’s see what turns up!

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4 Responses to Cowpokes for Christmas

  1. Christopher Shorr says:

    Oh my gosh, Bill–that picture is perfect. One of the things I love about it, is the fact that I bet that same Christmas morning, there were 1000 pictures taken that looks virtually identical. And that doesn’t take anything away from this picture or your experience – rather, it underlines just what an Incredible hold the western mythology has on our culture.The actual west and the stories and mystique that came of it captured the imagination of our society… And then once it became our mythology, it perpetuated itself and has become embedded on a different level: that of our collective memory, our childhoods, our imaginations. I love it. Thanks so much for sharing this!

    • I hadn’t thought of it quite this way, Christopher — but of course that same Christmas morning ceremony was happening in homes across the land, at more or less the same time. As you say, an incredible hold on our imagination… — BBly

  2. Nin says:

    ya’d better wipe that grin off yer face, Hoppy, or i’m a gonna plug ya!

    Annie O.

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