Blog 1800 – 08.28.2020
As many children of the last half of the last century, I have had a love of horses as long as I can remember, too many hours spent watching westerns on TV, I suppose. But, then as Willie sings, my heroes have always been cowboys and what is a cowboy without his trusty horse except open to one of the saddest Texas criticism of all, “All hat and no cattle.”
For a rock ‘n roller who was not a teenaged country music fan, I even then had more than a few cowboy songs in my head and my heart. Back then it used to be called Country Western Music and the western part always appealed and still does to me more than the country part. One of my favorite western music stars, George Strait sings several of my favorite songs, among them the one I attach my Mockingbird version of to this blog today, Amarillo By Morning.
Many of my age grew up romanticizing the hard traveling life of rodeo stars. And this song typifies that life. In all of my travels one of my most special visual memories comes from my first long contract work assignment in Wyoming near the small western town of Baggs, eight years ago. One of the attractions in the one signal light, two gas stations town was a small boarding house where Butch Cassidy supposedly stayed near the Snake River that crosses the two lane road through town. Just north of Baggs, from that road, 789, you can still see wild mustangs roaming the sage brush as they have since the Spanish Conquistadors brought them to this country five hundred years ago. It is a sight that would thrill any cowboy or cowgirl’s heart. It certainly did mine and the memory still does.
In my next life or perhaps the one after that, I look forward to seeing the completed Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota not far from Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore’s construction ended before the plan of four standing famous U.S. Presidents could be completed. And it was decided like many things in this country to leave it less than half completed.
Since only Native Americans are allowed to work on the Crazy Horse Memorial and only with privately donated funds as they come in, it may be another hundred years before it is finished. I was privileged to see both monuments some years ago. Mount Rushmore was impressive, but even though Crazy Horse’s head and that of his magnificent mount was all that at that time was completed, it was still to me far more compelling. When it is finished, the Crazy Horse Monument will dwarf Mount Rushmore and not only that, it will be visible freely for miles from the highway, no one having to pay a toll to see it from afar.
It was the horse more than anything that brought great change to North America, especially its wild western regions and the first people then and now that have done the most to conserve its beauty for future generations.
The white invading treasure land grabbing hoards wrote the the history books but the oral traditions of the first people still are passed from generation to generation. The stories of the plains people mounted on horse back hunting buffalo are far more likely to be true that the Cowboys and Indians tales invented and perpetuated by Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show and annual rodeos ever since. But, no matter which story is chosen to be told and retold the magnificent horse is always at the center of it.
Be they movie stars like Roy Rogers’ Trigger or Gene Autry’s Champion, the little barrel pony I met in Wisconsin some years ago called Twinkie, or the magnificent war horse portrayed with Crazy Horse, horses are living monuments to the true western spirit, riding like the wind across the mountains and plains. I still love westerns and I do so love horses. A horse far more than an eagle is to me symbolic of the west.
Your friend and fellow traveler,
Always a Indian and a Cowboy at heart,
Amarillo By Morning