A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shoulda Been A Cowboy........

When I was a little girl I wanted to move to Texas and be a cowboy. I didn’t want to be a cowgirl because Dale always had to wait outside on Buttermilk while the fighting was going on. I wanted to be in on it! I’ve since learned that there were and still are cowgirls that did real “cowboy” ranch work, like Hallie Stillwell in Big Bend. If you haven’t heard of her, read her book I’ll Gather My Geese. She was one tough woman!

(Photo - me and my trusty six-shooter)

Roy Rogers was my favorite and I also liked Gene Autry and Cisco and Pancho. While John Wayne made movies as a cowboy, Roy and Gene were real live cowboys all the time. They had ranches and rode horses and sang cowboy songs. They did things the “cowboy way”. They lived by the code of the west!

One time when I was about 7 or 8 I told my dad that I wanted to move to Texas and have a ranch. He said I could have a farm in Louisiana but I told him that was not the same thing! He didn’t understand.

As far as I know I was the only one in my family that did not like living in Louisiana. I didn’t like the muddy bayou, or the tall pines that blocked the sky out and suffocated me. I didn’t like to have my feet wet unless I was swimming! I didn’t like the humidity.

(Photo - David, me and Kathy)

And I didn’t like Louisiana history. I romanticized Colonel Travis, Jim Bowie, and Davy Crockett as they died at the Alamo.  When I heard that Davy said to his fellow Tennesseans “Y’all can go to hell, I’m going to Texas” I thought yes, here is someone who understands! I still cry whenever I read Travis’ letter from the Alamo. And the men from Gonzales that would not let their friends die alone and rode to join them knowing they rode to their death. These were the heroes I wanted to study. I wanted to learn about the Comanches and Apaches. The fierce men who rode wild and whooping through the open countryside!

I longed for the dry hills I saw every Saturday morning on TV. The big rocks and the small oaks and the cedars. The rolling hills and the limestone cliffs. The open spaces. The small creeks and rivers with clear bubbling water. The big starry skies and the far away views.

I learned that these shows were filmed mostly in California. But I also learned that the Texas Hill Country looks a lot like that area. I never made it to California to join up with Roy and Dale and Pat but I made it to Texas. My dad moved us to Houston when I was 14 years old.

(Photo - View from Shotgun Ridge at back of our place)

Eventually I made it to the Texas Hill Country, thanks to a farm boy from Mississippi who fell in love with the area when he came here. We don’t have a big ranch or a big herd of cattle. We have 54 acres and a small cabin and a couple of longhorns and lots of wildlife. We get around in a pickup truck not on a horse. We’ve stood together and fought life’s troubles and I’ve never had to go wait outside while the fight against hardship was going on. 

My favorite part of each western was when the heroes rode up to the ranch house. They always approached from on top of a hill that overlooked the ranch headquarters. They would pause and look down on the ranch house. Smoke would be coming from the chimney, the corrals would have a horse or two in them and the cowboys would be working quietly repairing a saddle maybe or maybe having lunch or taking a rest in the bunkhouse. It was always dry and dusty. Roy and the boys would always stop for a minute before going down. Just to look the place over and make sure everything looked alright. Then they would ride on in.
When you drive in on our road you top out on a hill just before you drop down to our place. If there weren’t so many oaks and cedars you could see my little “ranch” house.  For 23 years I have been pausing at the top of that hill and looking out at the great view of the hills and toward my cabin. Just to look the place over and make sure everything looks alright. Then I ride on in. 

(Photo - You can see the road that runs behind our place in this photo taken from Shotgun Ridge)


  1. Nice! We have a lot in common you know. I also grew up wanting to ride with Roy and Dale, on my very own Flicka. My mom was from Jennings, La. My dad from a little town that was once called Berwin, Okla. About the time that Gene Autry came to be a star, the name of that tiny town changed it's name to Gene Autry, Okla. Gene had bought a ranch there, but only visited one time. My Aunt and Uncle lived and managed the adjoining ranch to Gene's. I grew up spending my summers on another Gene Autry, Okla. ranch that has since been inherited by cousins in that area. Those cousins own and operate the Gene Autry, Oklahoma museum in Gene Autry. If you ever get the chance, you should tour South Eastern Oklahoma in the Devil's Den area of the Arbuckle Mountains. If you didn't know better, you'd say the Gene Autry and Roy Rogers shows were filmed there. BTW.... I have a life sized poster of John Wayne on the ceiling of my walk in closet!!!!

  2. I will definitely head for the museum and Devil's Den if I get that way! Laughing about your John Wayne poster!
    One day I will get a faster internet connection and respond to comments sooner. Enjoyed your story!