It has been a few weeks since my last #Western106 post and it is true I’m not paying as much attention as I was in the beginning. But that is sort of the beauty of these kind of courses right – you can do what you want to and really concentrate on what you feel inspired by.
I caught the High Noon Radio Hour from last week and it was oh so good. Alan Levine talking with Sandy Brown Jensen and Molly Gloss about all things Western. I’m not really sure if they were talking cowgirls so much as they were talking homesteaders but I really enjoyed hearing Molly read from one of her books The Jump-Off Creek. Very much from a feminine perspective, the story gives us a glimpse into what life for a single female frontier homesteader would be like. Molly has done her homework too – researching historical diaries of women that had lived this kind of life. It is all so fascinating.
You really should listen to the show – it is such a good one. They talk about science fiction and how that can be looked at from a western lens being that space is a new frontier being explored. It does all the bendy stuff with genera and story that I’ve been loving about this course.
But then it happened – Alan brought up the fact that I’m concentrating on Even Cowgirls Get the Blues for the course and someone said – well they just spend all their time chasing men right? Alan sheepishly says no but neither of the ladies can really answer and the conversation moves on. So, of course I need to interject myself into the conversation. This is why I love the Internet – I can respond a week later to a conversation that I was not even a part of in real time.
I should say that I am still working my way through Even Cowgirls Get the Blues – I’m still not finished with the book. I’m consuming the story in all of the ways possible (audio book, text book and movie) and it is really interesting to see it from all of these different angles. I watched the movie over the Christmas holiday and it is pretty bad all around though it is saved by Robbins quick wit which the writers were smart to keep. In the movie the cowgirls are most definitely not chasing after men – they are chasing after each other. There are hints at some love with men but the movie glides over it and if you don’t know what you are looking for you would never catch it. The book is much different with the main character Sissy Hankshaw loving two men and only one woman – Bonanza Jellybean.
Jelly is cowgirl and Sissy is a hitchhiker who is fascinated with Indians. One of my favorite passages in the book happens the first time that Sissy and Jelly meet. Jelly tells Sissy what it means for her to be a cowgirl.
She explains about how when you are a little girl and you want to grow up to be a cowgirl and they pat you on the head and say that is nice. But they never really believe that it is something that you can actually do. Then you find out that Santa Claus is not real, then the Easter Bunny, and then when you reach a certain age… well here I’ll let Jelly tell it:
“So they let you dress up like a cowgirl and when you say ‘I’m gonna be a cowgirl when I grow up’ they laugh and say ‘ Ain’t she cute?’ Then one day they tell you ‘Look, honey, cowgirls are only play. You can’t really be one.’ And that’s when I holler, ‘Wait a minute! Hold on! Santa and the Easter Bunny, I understand; they were nice lies and I don’t blame you for them. But now you’re screwing around with my personal identity, my plans for the future.”
And Jelly is pretty clear about the type of cowgirl that she wants to be too. She draws a distinction between what she calls trick ridin’ and real cowgirls citing Tad Lucas as a real rodeo cowgirl. I’ll let her get back to telling the rest of the story though:
“But the RCA cut women off in thirty-three. Said it was too dangerous. Well it was dangerous. Tad Lucas broke nearly every bone in her body at one time or another… But the men got hurt too. They were wired together like birdcages, most of ‘em… Why is it men are allowed to do dangerous things an hurt themselves and women aren’t? I don’t know. But I do know that they outlawed cowgirls, except for trick-riders and parade queens.”
The best part of the conversation comes when Sissy suggests that there is no demand for cowgirls and Jelly explains that is not exactly true. Jelly makes it clear that The System may have no demand for cowgirls but that there is a demand all the same and that the demand comes from the hearts of little girls.
This is just one conversation in the book and one of the simpler ones in regards to the role of women. There is a lot more – many of the cowgirls have different views on this. And many more metaphors than just feminism going on in the book as a whole – I’m a particular fan of the role of time in the book but you won’t find that in the movie.
And I’m not finished with it yet so I’m hoping that I can bring some more little bits of the book to you as it may come up.
I’m grateful to Western106 for bringing this book back into my life and for opportunity to interject my voice (and the voices of Sissy and Jelly) into a conversation that I listened to almost a week after it actually happened.
Fun times indeed.