Tuesday, February 24, 2009

COWBOY DIARY (1995), from MAKE IT LONG & WAVY

COWBOY DIARY

i

A little boy walked up to me and said: sometimes I feel like I’m wearing a beret, even when I’m not. You don’t understand, I told him, I am a cowboy.

ii

The sky was clear and open. The boy clearly appeared to be a drifter, perhaps from Nueces River or even further east. I wonder, as I write this, if I were a cowboy, if I would say “clearly appeared” or even “further east.”

iii

I wonder if I am a cowboy

iv

Sometimes a man’s only shade is the brim of his hat. Cowboys don’t wear berets. Either of these observations can be considered adages, truisms, metaphors, ugly truths, or, a hundred years from now, bumper stickers, I told the boy, firmly.

v

“Boy” I said to the boy, “You are a boy, aren’t you?”

vi

Firmly is what I do. Everything I do, I do that way. I talk firmly. I kiss firmly. I say my prayers firmly. I say ‘say your prayers’ firmly.


vii

How could I have ever have doubted that I was a cowboy?

viii

One day, every boy grows up, and holds a lariat in his hand. One day, every boy grows up, and holds a branding iron in his hand. One day, every boy grows up, and looks at a herd of cattle, and knows what he’s got to do, in order to be a man, or, in this case, a cowboy. He will understand, and he will appreciate.

ix

Spell ‘lariat’! the boy cried. I cannot, I replied. And there ain’t a cowboy alive who can, I added, firmly, never doubting that I am (was) a cowboy.

x

BONE DRY ON THE TRAIL. BIG SKY AND NO SHELTER. There’s a dozen ways to say a man’s without a woman, in the language of the cowboy, and not one of them are fit for a boy to hear.

xi

You really a boy? I asked the boy, again.

xii

Years from now, a man will come to you, and he will not wear a sombrero: he will wear a beret. He will be a Spanish man, and he will not be a cowboy. Yet you must revere him as you would a cowboy. He will be called Picasso, and when you hear his name, think of me, for I am a cowboy. You will understand when this day comes. As will he. And do not look for a sombrero, for he will not wear one.
xiii

Are you God? the boy asked. no. I told the boy. I am a cowboy.

xiv

Imagine, if you will, five hundred miles east of the Rockies, lying in the sky-blue buffalo grass in the spring.

xv

How can someone make religious art one day, and something else the next? Picasso would ask.

xvi

The life of a cowboy is lonely, and beautiful, and full of good work. The works of Picasso will appreciate, and make excellent investments.

xvii

Black rubber, pearl, or ivory will be the handles of your colt.

xviii

No footwear combines utility and comfort like the cowboy boot, located beneath your colt.

xix

Your colt

My colt

Our colt

xx

My house is made of cottonwood logs and chinked with mud and moss with a roof of dirt and branches. Someday it will be filled with paintings.

xxi

Would you like to buy my beret? the boy asked.

xxii

Sombrero, I told the boy, sombrero.

xxiii

Picasso?

xxiv

Investment
xxv

Their colts! Always keep your back to the wall, and

xxvi

You’re old enough to know, I told the boy. we castrate these cattle. It’s the law of the land, and part of a cowboy’s job on the frontier. It ain’t easy. and once you’ve done it, you’ll know what you’ve done.

xxvii

You have an idea of what you should do, Picasso said, but it should be a vague idea.

xxviii

Picasso?

xxix

Investment!

xxx

Sombrero?

xxxi

Beret! Beret! Beret!

xxxii

They were bold men, courageous men, aware that death was real and that over the next swell of prairie might wait the untamed Comanche, or that a sudden sound might send one herd stampeding, death in every hoof, so that not every cowboy who rode away that morning was guaranteed safe passage til the next.

xxxiii

They were, I told the boy, with a kiss that was not chaste, Picasso.

(1995)

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