When I was a little girl I wanted to be a cowboy. The most popular shows on TV those days were westerns and we watched a lot of them – Rawhide, Wagon Train and Gunsmoke. My mom liked Roy Rogers and Bonanza was almost a ritual.
Because I was just a kid, I didn’t know anything about movie or TV special effects. I believed that the people really got killed in the westerns. Being an animal lover, I was particularly distressed when ever they showed horses falling down or getting shot.
Around that time I heard a lot of the grownups talk about the electric chair. A skinny man named Oswald had shot the President and everyone said that if it hadn’t been for a man with rubies, he should have fried in the chair.
I couldn’t imagine anyone sitting in a chair that would fry you, surely you’d jump out! So I figured the electric chair must be something like the high chair that mom strapped my baby brother in so he couldn’t get out. All the talk of frying scared me because I’d think of some poor bad guy frying just like the pork fat daddy put in the greens. I couldn’t believe that grownups could be that mean!
One day as I was watching a western on TV the truth hit me. They didn’t really fry all those bad guys, they just brought them to Hollywood and put them in a western. At least they got a fighting chance and when they died, their families got all that money from them being movie stars.
Yeah, I really wanted to be a cowboy. Some of my mom’s family lived on a farm near Montreal and we’d visit in the summer so I even knew how to ride a horse. Well, pony actually, but I knew that when I got bigger, my uncle would let me ride one of the horses. Hey, that was more than those fools back in the neighbourhood who said I couldn’t be a cowboy. What did they know anyway? The only horse they ever rode was the one over at the A&P and you needed a nickle for that. So what if I was a girl? I could rope and brand too. I wasn’t going to be just another Dale Evans, nah, I was gonna wear chaps!
You know, it never occurred to me that I never saw any black cowboys. Of course now I know differently but back then I never saw a black cowboy on TV.
Mom used to play her Eddie Arnold records and the occasional Charlie Pride. I don’t know when I first heard of someone being called a credit to his race, but I think it was either about Charlie Pride or Sidney Poitier. Did ya ever notice that there have never been any black female country singers? I guess all we can do is sing the blues.