Sow’s Ear: "Boots, Jeans & Wildrag"
by Gwen Petersen
Big Timber, Mont.
“The Great American COWBOY ” Cowboy Songs & Range Ballads” is an event held annually on the first weekend in April at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo. “In the true tradition of the West, an entire weekend of cowboy music, humor, and tall tales.”
This past weekend I attended and came away wearing a smile that may last me the rest of my life. For 3 1/2 days, music, music and more music filled the breezeways, auditoriums, theaters and classrooms.
Two evening concerts showcased selected talent in a 2 1/2-hour show. After that, Cody rocked with jam sessions all around town. As far as I could judge, no musician or singer bothered to sleep for three nights and days.
I scurried from one venue to another trying to listen to as many performers as possible. The players came in all shapes, sizes, ages and genders. So did their instruments, up to and including washboards, stump sticks, handsaws, a nose flute and a gutbucket.
Talented people made music on fiddles and violins; they played on six-string and even 12-string guitars (I can’t even count that high). There were banjo pickers and mandolin players, wonderful doghouse bass players ” and one baritone ukulele plucker. (To learn more about that individual, read on.)
“Cowboy Songs and Range Ballads” performers go out of their way to help and appreciate one another … including the rankest beginner.
Speaking of rank brings me back to the ukulele plucker. For years I’ve yearned to be able to play something besides the radio.
“So, just try,” urged my musical friend. “You read music. Just learn some chords and a song. Just try.”
“But,” I protested, “I have no ear, my timing’s off, my singing voice attracts frogs and I can only play two chords on a ukulele.”
My friend persisted and, not wanting to insult any living songwriter, I wrote a parody to the tune of “Bell Bottom Trousers,” an old melody about sailors and their naughty ways. Since sailors don’t have a corner on naughty, I turned the ditty into a story about a cowboy. I cranked up my courage and with the “backup” of my musician friends, here’s what I warbled (Key of G, two chords, G and D7):
Boots, Jeans & Wildrag
Once I was a cowgirl down a dusty lane
My mama was so good to me, my daddy was the same
When along came a cowboy, happy as could be
And he was the cause of all my misery.
Singin’ boots, spurs and wildrag
And jeans of denim blue
Let him bust them broncos
Like his daddy used to do.
There’s more verses and the song ends with “the moral of this story.”
If you’re a music fan and enjoy great fun, next year put the second weekend in April on your calendar and bring the whole family. If you see a glassy-eyed crone clutching a baritone ukulele, that’ll be me. Be sure to say, “hi.”
I left Cody wearing a non-erasable grin and my friends now refer to me as “Sister Two Chords.”
P.S. If you want all the words to “Boots, Jeans & Wildrag,” send me a stamped envelope. Who knows, you too, may be a closet musician!
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