Back in the days of Aqua Net, pegged pants, and L.A. Gear shoes, I was attending high school. I had great aspirations of being the first person in my family to go to college but in those days, money wasn’t sprouting from trees and there wasn’t much hope for me to attend unless I did so on my parent’s credit cards.

Because of this, I pimped myself out to every scholarship application and committee that crossed my path. I wrote essays to dead people, I drank warm milk and socialized with Humboldt “elite” at a local yocal moo-moo contest (name withheld to protect the innocent), and I worked hard to keep my grade point average as high as I could. I did everything I could possibly think of to pay my way into a higher education.

During my junior year of high school, a quasi beauty and talent pageant was annually held which meant big bucks should I place well. Of course, being the money grubbing teenager, I promptly signed myself up without a second thought to the dance routine, talent portion, and fancy dress wearing required of the contestants. Did I mention that I hated cheerleaders? Or how I avoided dancing at any of the dances and normally wore Wranglers and barn boots to school in the morning? Yeah, smart move on my behalf.

Throughout the next few weeks, I slowly picked up the dance moves and began practicing walking in high heels. It wasn’t too bad but I was still at a loss as to what I could do for a talent. Some of the gals did dance routines while others played musicial instruments. I had absolutely no talent having sworn off anything remotely close to ladylike ambitions.

The ladies putting on the show approached me, seeing the quandary I was already facing of having to pretend that I enjoyed being a girl for the entire show. One nice gal mentioned doing a poem and I chewed on it overnight. By morning, I had a solution. My favorite teacher used to play cowboy poetry during class and on field trips. It was one of the few types of poetry (besides Sidney Sheldon) I actually enjoyed listening to. The answer was perfect and none of the women seemed too concerned over my decision; that is until they heard me recite the poem in all it’s glory on the night of the performance. I guess when I walked out in Wranglers, boots, leather chaps, a cowboy hat, and a painted on mustache – they knew they were in for it.

Here’s what I recited:

Story With a Moral
By: Waddie Mitchell

Now I know there’s things worse that make cowpunchers curse,

And I reckon it’s happened to us all.

Though it’s years since, you bet, when I think of it yet,

It still makes my old innards crawl.

I was makin’ a ride to bring in one hide

That hadn’t showed up in the gather;

I was riding upstream, daydreamin’ a dream,

When I caught there was somethin’ the matter.

Near some quakin’ asp trees, I had caught in the breeze

A stench that was raunchy and mean,

And I reckoned as how it might be the old cow,

So I rode to a bend in the stream.

Shore ’nuff that cow lied in the crick there and died;

Hard tellin’ how long she’d been been there.

She was bloated and tight, twas a horrible sight —

She was oozin’ and slippin’ her hair.

Her eye sockets were alive with maggots that thrive

On dead flesh, putrid yellow and green,

And the hot sun burnin’ down, turnin’ pink things to brown,

Spewin’ oily gunk in the stream.

Well, I spurred upwind fast to get away from the blast

Of the heavy stench the cow made;

And I felt bad seein’s how I’d lost the old cow,

And I pulled up near a tree in the shade.

Then I got sick to the core, rememberin’ just minutes before

I’d done something that made me feel worse;

Not thirty yards down I’d stepped off to the ground

And drank ’til my belly near burst.

For months after it, just the thought made me spit,

And I’d live it over like a bad dream.

And the moral, I think, is if you must take a drink,

Never, ever remount and ride upstream.

The crowd was silent during my recital and I gave my best cowboy twang voice, making sure to accentuate the parts about the guts and stench. It was great. I got a polite clapping session at the end but I could care less. I rocked good ‘old Waddie and I did the talent portion without entirely giving up my tomboy roots.

Needless to say, I didn’t win the talent contest or the whole shebang. But… I did walk out with first-runner up and Miss Congeniality (due to all my dirty jokes during practice). I was shocked and so were my parents – especially when they saw the $700 bucks I made for a night’s worth of girliness. It was a great experience but one I’d never repeat – even though I did it my way *insert Frank Sinatra’s voice here*.

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