A stroll (in boots) down memory lane

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Many teams were needed to prepare the bed for the railroad being built from Pagosa Junction to Pagosa Springs in 1900. This photo shows a group of teams with wagons passing through downtown Pagosa Springs on their way to the construction site west of town.

Have you ever felt like a stranger in your own personal boots, cowboy hat and hometown? Those were the cobwebs I was tangled in on the Fourth of July this year. I didn’t go to the parade, rodeo or any of the boot-stompin’ dances. Lots of cars jammed up downtown and we just didn’t wanta hafta cope with the traffic.
About halfway through the morning, we decided to get a cup of coffee at the “uptown” coffee shop. And so I put on my usual July 4 garb and we headed out. We’d no sooner stepped inside the coffee shop than I was overwhelmed by feelings of “am I in the right place?” and when that proved OK, “de ja who?” overwhelmed me.
I looked down across my boot-cut Arizona jeans and there were my Justins, one on each foot, each on the foot it was supposed to be on. I cranked my right hand up over the top of my head and there was the old Stetson, just as pert and sassy as it was s’posed to be. Then I took a careful peek at the part of this old body (I can’t sing “I Ain’t Got No Body” any more ‘cuz it ain’t for true. There’s a bunch of body wrapped around the middle) that kept me from seein’ the way-out- west belt buckle. Sure nuf, ever’ pearl button on the brightly colored Stetson shirt, down the middle and up both cuffs, was in place and snapped shut. What was going on?
Well, hang on, I’m about ter tell ya. I carefully peeked left and right at every coffee drinker in that place, boy, girl, man, woman, old, young, fat, skinny, any description I’d ever seen, e’en out back in an old Monkey Ward catalog. They was all dressed the same, meanin’ they wasn’t much dressed. I’ve seen more coverin’ on a Thanksgiving turkey plucked, stuffed and slidin’ into the oven. I gave ‘em the benefit of the doubt allowin’ as there might be a shortage of cotton and lace and other such things invented to cover the human body, especially out in public.
Then nostalgy swept o’er me like smoke from an out-of-control fire in the piney woods. I ‘membered that not much mor’n 50 years ago, every man showed up for the downtown parade wearin’ a brand-new straw Stetson, bent and curved just right; his best pair of boots, polished and clickin’ down the sidewalk in cadence with the cow ponies and creakin’ wagons that made up the Red Ryder Roundup parade. When ya heard the tootin’ of the fire engine (the town only had one and all of the firefighters were volunteers) turnin’ the corner in front of the courthouse, ya knew the parade was over.
After the parade, some folks hung around for coffee and burritos at the Elkhorn, others downed steak and eggs at Diestlekamp’s Jan’s Café, and mor’n a few found a bottle of sumpin’ or other in the trunk of their car, looked o’er a shoulder to make sure no one was a watchin’, then downed a gurgle or two. That sumpin’ or its replacement lasted through the afternoon rodeo and the jingle stompin dances that lasted through most of the night.
The best part of the rodeo was you could root for local cowboys named Montroy or Bramwell or such and they were winners.
The worst part of the Four was the sumpin’ turned into firewater and more than one cowboy grew to 9 feet tall with fists of iron, ready to welcome any come on. Lots of ‘em woke up the next morning lookin’ in the mirror and wonderin’ who was that stranger with the black eyes, flattened nose and torn-up lips. The achin’ head provided the snswer, sho’ nuf.

This story was posted on August 5, 2018.