Gwen Petersen: In a Sow’s Ear 7-9-12
Cowboy country. Yesterday, I visited Two Dot, Mont., a town so small it’s not even incorporated. Once a thriving wild west town, all that’s left is a bar and a combination firehall/community center. And that’s about it. Oh, yeah, the Post Office is the front room of the postmaster’s home.
To support the firehall/community center, the local populace (ranch families) throws an annual Street Dance, serves up a gourmet barbecue and hires a real cowboy – Wylie and the Wild West – to play for the dance.
The scene is Norman Mailer small town America or perhaps I should say small town western America. First you eat food like your mother and grandmother used to make and so delicious you nearly founder. But you’ll get over that when the music starts.
When Wylie and his three fellow cowboy musicians crank ‘er up, the dancers crowd the floor (which is the cement driveway in front of the firehall). It’s a perfect evening – sunny skies, soft breeze, green grass, an early full moon hanging in the sky as if pasted there on purpose. Watchers set up chairs opposite the drive so they can see the dancers and hear the music.
The two-step is still the popular dance in Two Dot. A middle aged couple executes a set of choreographed moves that would make a professional dancer envious. And little kids – I’m talking about those 2- or 3-feet tall – do not hesitate to gyrate in imitation of the big kids. Big brothers obligingly dance with little sisters. Moms carry infants in their arms and twirl around to the beat. Grandpas ride herd on barely walking tots.
One little guy wants to give a stick to Ella, the Cowdog, who has been chasing thrown twigs and catching tossed balls for hours. Ella wants the kid to throw the stick. The tot wants to push said stick into Ella’s jaws. Dog backs up. Child follows, waving stick. Ella wags tail and hops back with a look that shouts, Please! Throw it! Throw it! Please! Please!
No surprise – the donation box to fund the firehall and community center overflowed.
The legacy of small communities doing things on their own without whining to the government, the legacy of rural handshake honesty, the legacy of cowboy keeps tradition alive and thriving. I, for one, am glad.
What’s in the future, what’s in the cards
As the West continues to change?
Will cowboys no longer be around –
Driven from the range?
Common English words escape me
To tell my admiration
For the men & women who work this land
To feed our splendid nation.
Cowboys ride the western landscape
Where majestic eagles soar.
Dark shapes are profiled against the blue –
The ravens forever more!
Where mountains reach to touch the sky
Cloud feathers ’round their peaks
Steep slopes dark-robed with needled pines
And sun-gold Aspen leaves.
Where hayfields swathed in lacy windrows
Await the baler’s jaws
To roll the grass in huge round shapes
Stonehenge bowling balls!
Cowboys tend the brand new calves
That frisk and lark and duck
While mama cows calmly graze
Or stand chewing on a cud.
Yes, the cowboy symbolizes
Historic days of old
He passes on that legacy
As the ribbon of time unfolds.
To honor the cowboy, keep tradition alive
His name shall be inscribed
In Montana’s brand new Hall of Fame
Where cowboys forever ride!
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I have been rather preoccupied lately and haven’t been writing my editor’s note. So, for those who have called and emailed to make sure I’m still on this Earth, I’m still here.