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Revised 7 December, 2009

A Eulogy to Dusty Dreams and Forgotten Song

The Indian in the next photo is a real one. His name was Chief Iron Hail Dewey Beard and he fought at the Battle of Wounded Knee and also at Custer's Last Stand. His first wife and child were killed at Wounded Knee.After the surrender, Chief Beard assisted his fellow tribesman in negotiations with those in authority at the fort and did his best to get them as much help as he could. I was fortunate to meet him when traveling through South Dakota on our way home from Yellowstone National Park. We originally went out to take a photo as he was doing this to support his current family and my grandfather struck up a conversation with him about his life on the prairie. Chief Beard invited us into his teepee and spent over an hour relating the story of his history. I shall never forget the experience. He was well into his 90s at the time.

In a corner of my garage sits an old, badly-worn metal doorstop.  In better days it stood its place, a proud and haughty steed, with harness taut and one hoof raised in an eternal homage to its maker.  Today, however, it sits on a quiet shelf in forgotten cobwebs, its tail broke off and its luster long-since faded…..and yet, I dare not throw it out.  

For I was going to be a cowboy when I grew up and everybody knew it, for I told them every chance I got.  I dressed, ate, breathed and read every western dimes store novel I could get my hands on.  I learned all the cowboy songs so I could sing to my herd.  I studied every movie line and learned to head 'em off at the pass and that they always went "that a way".   

I dressed in western shirts and a cowboy hat; I wore no shoe that was not either cowboy boots or saddle oxfords (with reference to saddle, if you please.)  I wore the obligatory cowboy scarf and a leather jacket with fringe on the sleeves.  The local saddle maker, Hilmer, was so impressed with my dedication to all things western that he made me a set of hand-tooled leather holsters and a belt to match, into which promptly went my official Hopalong Cassidy pearl-handled cap pistols and I was mighty proud and showed it.  

Being a small and rather naïve soul, I begged my mother to buy me a book on breeding horses, blissfully unaware of the implications of the subject matter, and was sorely distressed when she of better wisdom told me no.  But it didn't matter.  I was going to be a cowboy.  

My very first auction at which my father allowed me to bid (actually he was looking the other way and didn't catch me in time), I bought my very own honest-to gosh cowboy rope.  I was beside myself with joy.  I roped and tied every little doggie (or doggy) in the neighborhood, much to their chagrin.  That rope was my lasso to round up the herd, it was my corral to tie up my stick horses and it was ultimately the rope that almost broke my father's neck (after which he learned that falling asleep when I was playing was a dangerous proposition.)   

Actually, I should perhaps interject an explanation at this point regarding my last statement.  It appears that my father was talking to me in his usual fatherly way as he began to doze off.  At some point, being an inventive child with an active imagination, I did what any self-respecting cowboy would do.  I tied one end of the rope to his leg and the other to the bed so he would not wander off in my absence.  After which, I became bored and went outside to play.  Much to my amazement and in a stunning revelation to my father, the telephone rang.  The phone, being in the other room, naturally required that he run to the other room to catch it before the ringing stopped.  I do believe that it would not be an understatement to indicate at this time that my father literally came to the end of his rope.  The thud was almost as resounding as the sound of his voice as I heard an extremely loud and exasperated calling of my name to present myself with an explanation.  But I digress.

The horse in the garage was a gift from a most fascinating elderly gentleman, who lived in our local old peoples' home (more effectively called a senior citizen's center in today's euphemistic world.)   This gentleman was 90 years young and every day of his life, he would walk the one-mile distance to his home to visit with his past and wander through the dusty memories.  He swore that these visits were what gave him his reason to live and live he did until the day his doctor ordered him not to take his walks alone any more.  The day that restriction was laid before him, that sweet old gentleman began to wither away until he had faded into a distant memory and gone to meet his maker.  Before he died, however, he gave me that horse, his most prized possession, and asked me to think of him when I played because he knew that I wanted to grow up and be a cowboy.  

That horse and I have traveled far and wide and though we both are now beaten with age and the dust of time, we both have laid aside our dreams and like the old gentleman who brought us together, await our time to meet our own maker.  We never did get to grow up and become a cowboy.  

But when the final curtain draws, I shall not truly die.  I shall kiss my horse, place my hat at a rakish angle, split my face in an ear-to-ear grin and that horse and I will walk off into the sunset. . . where I shall at last grow up to be a cowboy.

God Bless and never lose sight of your dreams.   

 

Granny Kate