Let me just say this: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a cowgirl, except one Halloween when I was about six or seven years old. I wore a cowhide vest and a cowgirl hat, given to me by a favorite uncle. In my mind’s eye, I can see how I looked that Halloween, standing in my grandparents’ living room, hat cocked at a jaunty angle, a red checked western shirt under the vest. I looked, I don’t mind telling you, pretty damn good. This was not some dime store costume vest and hat. These were the real deal. I not only looked the part, I felt it. Which I know, now, with the wisdom that comes from a fair bit of experience, is really what it’s all about.
I loved that vest, that hat. Especially the vest. I mourned when I outgrew it, and had to pass it along to my younger sister, who did not cherish it, I felt, in the way it deserved to be cherished. I mourned later because somehow that vest passed out of my possession almost without my knowledge, and I still have no idea what ever happened to it. And, if I let myself think too much about it, I could mourn even still, not so much for the vest itself, but for what it represented: the limitless possibilities of early childhood, when you believed, or at least I did, that you had only to set your mind and heart on something and it would eventually be so.
As a child, when every other adult I came across asked the famous “what do you want to be when you grow up” question that all adults have asked all kids since time out of mind, I recall I often answered that I wanted to be a cowgirl. I don’t really know why, but I thought being a cowgirl sounded like a fine occupation. After all, I loved horses, and the outdoors. I thought, if given the opportunity, and a little instruction, I could learn to swing a lasso pretty well. That’s pretty much all there was to it … like I said, I didn’t give it a tremendous amount of thought.
The thing is, I still think that under the right set of circumstances, I might have made a pretty good cowgirl. And who knows? Maybe I still might be. Because here’s the other thing: now, three years into my fourth decade on this earth, I sometimes have the feeling that I’m just getting started.