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“Well, there’s no such thing as cowboys,” the child said. “They’re imaginary, they’re in movies and TV and stuff. They’re not real. Like Santa Claus and dinosaurs.”
The conversation between the sixth graders had been about Halloween costumes, and whether or not Li’l Shannon could reasonably go as a cowboy. Not a cowgirl; a cowboy. Jeans, boots, and so on. She seemed to feel that cowboys were cool, whereas cowgirls were lame, and where does one find pink jeans and pink Stetson, anyway? And Josh blew it all out of the water with “I don’t believe in cowboys. They aren’t real.”
And it was at this point where I had to ask, “Josh, what makes you think cowboys aren’t real? I grew up in deep south Texas. I knew lots of cowboys. Who do you think raises the cattle that go to make your hamburgers?”
“Well,” said Josh, a little taken aback, “There USED to be cowboys, sure. But now all that is automated, and stuff.”
I had a bizarre vision, out of nowhere, of robot cowboys riding motorcyles, herding cattle, and squealing ‘yee haw’ in electronic voices.
“So... you’re honestly telling me to my face that you believe that cowboys are extinct?”
He looked troubled. Contradicting one’s teachers isn’t normally standard procedure for sixth graders, but he felt like he needed to stand up for his belief system. “Well, I said there USED to be cowboys,” he said. “I mean, someone had to fight the Indians*, and fight at the Alamo**, like Sam Houston and Davy Crockett, and all that. But now, there’s just people who dress UP like cowboys. They don’t carry six shooters, they don’t ride horses, and they don’t have anything to do with cows. Nowadays, it’s all about being in movies about old timey days, back in cowboy times. There aren’t any cowboys NOW. It’s like dinosaurs, you know? We know there USED to be tyrannosaurs, but now they’re only in MOVIES. Y’know? Like private detectives.”
I may have stood there with my mouth open. Admittedly, I can’t say I knew any private detectives in high school, but...
“Um... Josh,” I began, as gently as I could. “Cowboys exist. So do private investigators. Look up PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR in the Yellow Pages, and--”
“Yellow what?” he said, confused. Errrgh. Okay, I stepped into that one. Sigh.
“Josh, you live in Colorado. Colorado has mountains at one end, and plains on the other. Those plains are full of farms and ranches. The ranches are infested with cattle. You’ve seen them, every road trip you ever took. Who do you think looks after those cattle? And you can hire a private investigator any time.”
“Well, that’s just silly,” said Josh, indignant. “Why would you HIRE a detective when you can just call the cops for FREE? Private detectives aren’t REAL, they’re just in TV shows and movies. Like cowboys. Or dragons. It’s all PRETEND. You dress UP as one, you can’t really BE one. And cattle are domesticated, these days. You just CALL them, right?”
I had yet another unbidden vision of a rancher blowing a whistle, and the cattle queuing up neatly to jump into a meat grinder. He was so durn sure of himself. Howthehell do you explain the truth to a child who’s quite sure you’re wrong? I know that insurance companies employ hordes of private investigators to check insurance fraud, even if they don’t look like Tom Selleck or Humphrey Bogart, I know you can hire a PI to see if your spouse is cheating on you and get photos for the divorce lawyer, and I went to HIGH SCHOOL with cowboys, fa potato’s sake, but how do you explain all this to a SIXTH GRADER--
He smiled at me. “Look,” he said. “I appreciate you want to help preserve my sense of childish wonder. My parents felt the same way about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. But it’s okay. I’m grown up***, now. And you have to let go of your childish dreams sometime.”
And that was how I witnessed the Twilight Of The Cowboys, right there in the sixth grade...
*Actually, cowboys did not often fight Indians. Usually only on long trail drives, and even then, they’d rather negotiate than try to fight anyone while trying to keep a herd of skittish cattle from stampeding.
**I do not know how many cowboys fought at the Battle of the Alamo. I do know that neither Sam Houston nor Davy Crockett were cowboys. Sam Houston, in fact, grew up among the Cherokee Indians, and was not at the actual battle... and Crockett was a woodsman and bear hunter who later held a seat in Congress. And while cowboys and Congressmen do have some things in common, they are far from the same thing.
***Don’t talk to ME about grown up, ya little broccoli, with half your education still in front of you, and just WAIT till puberty gets involved...
****Did I mention that this child plays Dungeons and Dragons? But still doesn't believe in cowboys?
On a whim I decided to do a quick paint job on some Artizan 7th cav figures I've had laying around for a while. We play a game called Dead Mans Hand and since it's a small scale skirmish game it takes just a few minis.
Painted jackets and pants then did a wash on both. Also basecoated some leather. Also used Tanned Leather as a basecoat for yellow neckerchiefs. Decided to go with a few different hat colors just so it's easier to differentiate models on the table.
Pretty much done. Need to do some rank markings on their sleeves once I'm reminded what the different ranks in the game are. Also need to finish the bases.
I'm pretty sure this figure must have come from Reaper's first Bones Kickstarter, because they had real trouble with facial features not filling out properly in the mould on a number of the miniatures. This is one such.
In Reaper's catalogue, this is 80003: Ellen Stone, by Bob Ridolfi, but I always call her Jenny No-Nose because, well, she has no nose. Rather than try to fill in her missing features with paint, I've just painted her with a flat rag-doll face with no eyes or nose and just a gash for a mouth. She's a Weird West gun-babe.
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