Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Tenderfeet Camp with the Real Cowboys

A version of this post first appeared on The Zees Go West in May, 2008.

Another example of Jimmy and Jerry's grandpa's sense of humor

When I was a little girl I lived in a house near the ocean in San Francisco.

I wore jeans and cowboy boots, a Roy Rogers cowboy shirt, a Dale Evans cowgirl vest, and a Red Ryder cowboy hat. And every morning before I went out to play I strapped on the rhinestone-studded belt and holsters that held my two matching pearl-handled six-shooter cap guns.

One of the highlights of my misplaced-cowgirl childhood was a trip that my family took with some San Francisco friends down to Arizona, where we traveled up into the mountains and stayed on a for-real ranch that belonged to Jimmy and Jerry’s grandpa.

A cowboy who rode a big black horse gave me a pony to ride. The cowboy's name was Rimrock and I named my pony Chauncey. Rimrock said that Chauncey would always be my pony even when I went back to San Francisco and he was still living his pony life in Arizona.
Little Buckaroo
We “helped” the cowboys round up and brand the calves.

That night we ate Cookie’s delicious beans and biscuits on tin plates while sitting around a campfire. Somebody had a harmonica, and somebody else had a guitar, and we all sang. It smelled like mountain air, pine trees, cattle, dust, and smoky embers.

After supper, we rolled up in blankets and lay down around the fire. Just as we were falling asleep, we heard the sound of boots and spurs.

It was Jimmy and Jerry’s grandpa. 

He walked over to a wooden platform that had barbed wire strung around it, climbed up the steps, went through the little gate at the top, closed it, and sat down on the bed that was up there.

We thought about that for a minute. Then someone called out, using his best cowboy talk, “Hey, Jimmy and Jerry’s grandpa, what’re you fixin’ to do up there?”

Jimmy and Jerry’s grandpa took off his for-real cowboy hat and hung it on one of the barbed wire posts. He said, “I’m fixin’ to go to sleep.” We all thought about that some, and then someone else called out, “Well, how come you’re up there on a platform with barbed wire all around and we’re down here on the ground?”

Jimmy and Jerry’s grandpa had set his Winchester rifle on the floor of the platform and was practicing to see how quickly he could grab for it. He paused for a moment, looked down at us, and said, “Well, somebody has to protect us from the slitherin’ snakes, and the howlin’ coyotes, and the things that growl in the night.”

We all lay there, wrapped up in our thin blankets down on the ground. We thought about snakes slitherin’, and coyotes howlin’, and the things that growl in the night.

We thought for about two seconds and suddenly everyone rose up hastily from that dusty ground and there was the sound of hurrying footsteps and car doors slamming.

My Aunt Nellie put me to bed in the backseat of someone’s big old Studebaker, and she lay down in the front seat and went right off to sleep. Her snoring somehow sounded to me just like snakes slitherin’, and coyotes howlin’, and the things that growl in the night.

Meanwhile, back in the clearing, the only sound was the crackling of the poked-up campfire. If anyone else had been around, they might also have heard Jimmy and Jerry’s grandpa up there on his platform, chuckling to himself, and saying, “Tenderfeet!”

(Photos by my dad)


  1. Your storytelling has such wonderful humor, rhythm and cadence. J'demande a book!! And I'm not kidding!! srsly.

  2. Buck, I'm sure that "everyone" who reads this blog (???) will be looking forward to the photo tomorrow of Little Bucksnort, enjoying this same cowboy vacation. Same time, same place.

    And thank you for your kind compliments. I've played around with the wording in this story more than anything else I've ever written. The telling of it is still evolving, although the events took place close to 60 years ago.

  3. Great story with wonderful images that add to the narrative.

  4. I enjoyed your story so much and am looking forward to more! I will be back!

  5. Oh, my goodness, what a hoot! I'm sure this must be a story told and re-told when your family is together.

    And, dang, lucky you! You really were a COWGIRL! I knew we had a connection the minute I saw your first comment on another blog (I think it was the profile photo).

    Really, though, a very well written piece.


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