Petersen: Age is only a number |

Petersen: Age is only a number

More years ago than I care to tabulate, I worked on a dude ranch in Arizona. I was young and, therefore, mostly unconscious about life’s vicissitudes, oddities and general chaos. But that’s what one does when one is young; one gathers experiences so that one can call on them in later years … Isn’t that it? Or have I missed the whole point?

On the ranch where I was employed, one guest was a woman in her, well, dotage. (The country in which I now reside, I might add). Sophie was her name. One of my duties each afternoon was to apprise Sophie of cocktail hour in the lodge by tapping on her door a few minutes before “the hour”.

She always appeared garbed in skin-tight jeans and wearing pounds of makeup, gallons of perfume, 3-inch false eyelashes and a whole bunch of attitude.

Sophie was fond of “making an entrance” into any social gathering. She would glide into the lodge, one arm lifted as if about to bestow a benediction. Dropping anchor, near a convenient chair or table, she would assume a Mae West pose, glancing coquettishly up through the forest of eyelashes.

Scarcely 5 feet tall, even in heels, she could look up at most everyone. But she saved her best glances for men, especially cowboys. When the dinner gong sounded, she always floated into the dining room escorted by two, somewhat bewildered, cowboys.

One afternoon, my knock on her door went unanswered. Concerned, I opened it. From the bathroom came strange gurgling sounds.

Sophie?” I called.

A figure, clad in a blue satin negligee, emerged from the bathroom. An awesome pink growth sagged below her chin. I was relieved when I realized it wasn’t a weird tumor, but a strap to “firm up” her lower jowl area.

Sophie fluttered her hand toward her throat from which issued soft turkey-like gobbles along with little bubbles reflecting tiny rainbows when the afternoon sun brushed them.

I can only admit I was terrified. Was she having a seizure? Then she spun on her heels and disappeared within the bathroom. I followed, desperately trying to recall what one did if a person was having an epileptic seizure.

Sophie bent over the basin, rinsing her mouth in running tap water again and again. Finally, she could speak. Pointing to a flask-shaped liquid-soap bottle, she gasped, “I thought it was Scotch!”

Sophie’s peccadillos did not end with Scotch mishaps. She loved horseback riding. Her “own” special horse was called “Dandy.” Dandy was a bomb proof, part Percheron saddle horse and one of those equines that likes people. You could take a nap on Dandy with no fear of him doing anything too sudden.

One afternoon, Sophie rode out alone on Dandy. When she had not returned by 5 p.m. we grew worried. She’d never miss happy hour!

Especially concerned was Blinker Bill, a ranch hand of “mature” years whose nickname came about due to the constant flickering of his left eyelid. Aside from constant blinking, he held his age well. Finally Blinker Bill saddled a horse and set off to find Sophie. He didn’t look too worried.

Sometime later Bill returned accompanied by the lost Sophie. He looked a mite frazzled. Her smile could only be described as Cheshire-like.

Later, I asked, “Sophie, if you weren’t lost, how come you stayed away for so long?”

She smiled. “Cowboys,” she purred, “are such lonely men.”

“You don’t mean,” I gasped, “at your age… you… and… old Blinker Bill…?

Sophie struck a hip-swiveling Mae West pose, flickered her eyelashes and declared, “Age, Dearie, has nothing to do with it.”

I did not ask for details.❖


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