Johnson: Don’t need a horse to be a cowgirl
January 20, 2017
While I was watching the horse events at the National Western Stock Show, I was reminded of a time when I was a young girl growing up on a farm near Edinburg, N.D., and wanting to be a cowgirl.
But I didn't have a horse.
After much nagging from my sisters and I, my dad got us a Shetland pony.
Her name was Lady, but she was no lady.
We spent most of our time trying to catch Lady and the rest of the time trying to outsmart her.
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Shetlands are smart, too smart.
She would walk right up against the fence to try to rub me off of her, forcing me to ride with one leg up on her back. She would also take every opportunity to knock me off by walking under low-hanging tree branches. As you can imagine, riding Lady was not very comfortable as I had to hold one leg up and keep my head down.
Then my dad got rid of Lady when he started raising sheep. He said horses would tear up his fence.
Although riding the Shetland was hazardous, at least I had somewhat of a horse. Now I had none.
I'm sure you're thinking that there is a happy ending here: Girl gets horse, girl learns to rope, girl wins rodeo, blah, blah, blah.
No, this ending comes with a twist.
Much later in life, I joined a roller derby team in Grand Forks, N.D., called the Sugar Beaters. We were named for the sugar beet industry in the region, where American Crystal Sugar is produced.
I got all practiced up and was allowed to perform in a bout (that's when they decide you won't be a danger to everyone else on the track), I had to choose a name for myself. All I could think of was that I wanted to be a cowgirl. So I became Polly Packin' Heat. I already had the cowboy hat and boots, which I couldn't wear during the bout, (they prefer that we wear roller skates and helmets) but I could wear them before the bouts, and, of course, at our after parties. To complete my outfit I needed a holster and some guns.
They only (toy) guns I could find were silver with blaze orange tips. I know the blaze orange tips are meant to keep cops from shooting small children but it made me look like a safety cop. Believe me, Polly Packin' Heat was far from safety conscious when she started playing roller derby at the age of 50.
Well, I still didn't have a horse, but I got a chance to play cowgirl on skates.
My career lasted nearly three years and those roller girls were much harder on me than Lady was.
Make sure you go to the Colorado Farm Show this week, Jan. 24-26 at Island Grove Regional Park. To find more information about the show, see our schedule starting on page 5 or go to http://www.coloradofarmshow.com. ❖