Growing up in Southeast Asia, you wouldn’t think that American Cowboys & Indians would be, as my kids would say, “a thing,” but it was. My dad grew up in 1930s and 40s America, in the West. Out where real cowboys lived. Out where members of the local Utes tribe came into town on weekends. He grew up watching double-feature movies and loved the Westerns. He still does.
My family moved back to the United States in 1970 — I would be coming here for the first time. We took a month to make the trip, stopping at places throughout Europe that my mother had always wanted to visit. That included Oslo, Norway. I was young enough I don’t remember a lot of things from Oslo except that I’d never seen such clear blue skies in my life. And that the motel where we stayed outside of Oslo had a pond out back. There was a raft made from logs tied together and long pole for pushing yourself around that pond. One day my dad suggested all four of us kids head out to play.
Suddenly, we were all rafting along the Missouri River — heading west. “The West” was the far side of the pond — complete with stand after stand of birch trees. Once we arrived there we kids split up — half of us to be cowboys, the other half to be Indians.
I’ve often wondered what other motel guests thought when they heard whoops and “hee-aws” coming from out back. As for me? I was the beautiful Indian Maid gleefully throwing stick arrows at her brother, the rascally Cowboy Dave.
— Mary Wright