If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you may remember that I will soon spend five days on horseback in the mountains near Tombstone, Arizona. I hope to post evening updates on that adventure between October 15 and 23 — that’s assuming I’m still capable of typing after a full day in the saddle. To catch everyone up, here’s a rerun of “Going West-ern,” which was my first blog on this topic. There’s a note at the bottom, bringing it up to date.
Since writing THE SPARROW, I’ve attended a number of science fiction conventions and enjoyed them hugely, but I’ve never been one to wear Spock ears or dress up as an Imperial Stormtrooper. This reluctance to live out fantasies in public could be a sign of dignity and reserve; more likely, it’s clear-eyed realism about how easy it is for a little old lady with poor bone structure to look ridiculous. That said — and God help me — I just ordered a cowboy hat.
The occasion for this spasm of uncharacteristic behavior is signing up for a five-day horseback trek in October. The ride is led by Steve Shaw of Great American Adventures, and it winds through the Chiricahua, Dragoon and Whetstone Mountains and the high country around Tombstone, Arizona, visiting the sites of the 1882 Earp Vendetta Ride. (Should anyone from the IRS be reading this, I assure you that this entire trip is totally research for my next novel, and I’ll keep very good records of that.) I’ll be staying on for the Helldorado Days festival (Tombstone, Oct. 21-23).
Most participants wear full western costume for these events. I told Mr. Shaw that the best I could do was jeans and a plaid shirt. There is no way on God’s green earth that I’m dressing up as a cowboy, a gambler or a dance hall girl, thanks all the same. He said that was fine, but predicted that I’d change my mind when I got down to Tombstone and saw all the cool stuff in the stores.
Twelve hours later, I caved in and ordered a hat.
Because I’ll need sun protection, right? I mean, I burn easily and the thin mountain air won’t provide much of a UV barrier, so it’s only sensible to have a broad-brimmed hat to shade my face. Right? And the hat may as well be black, because all my plaid flannel shirts have a black ground to them. And my glasses have black rims, too. So a black hat would go, right?
But that’s it. Not one step further into Fantasy Land.
Because I already have cowboy boots from when I was down at the K.D. Guest Ranch in Adamsville, Ohio, brushing up on my horseback riding skills. (Note to IRS guy: it was research for DOC, and I can prove it). If you’re going to pen cattle, you have to have cowboy boots, or your heel might slip through the stirrup. You could get hurt. Honest. Cowboy boots are practically required.
But that’s it. Cowboy boots and a hat. With jeans and plaid shirts.
Maybe a jacket, though. It’ll be cold in the mountains. And I really do need a jacket… And gloves, maybe. Leather ones, because I can’t wear my purple knit gloves — those are for winter in Ohio, and they’re pretty worn out anyway. I could use leather gloves in the garden, afterward.
No chaps. Or spurs. Chaps and spurs are absolutely out. Seriously. I mean it.
This afternoon I mailed a box of gear to my brother, who lives in Phoenix. Richard, by the way, has made a full recovery from the near-death experience in August when a goodly section of bowel tore itself open and tried to kill him. He used to have a colon; now he has a semi-colon.
Anyway, I’m doing three events in Washington State before going on to Tombstone, and it was cheaper to ship some bulky and heavy stuff to him than to check it through on multiple flights (Cleveland – Seattle – Phoenix – Cleveland). The box contains:
the boots — because they’re good for stirrups, but they’re hell to walk in;
the hat –which actually doesn’t look bad even on a little old lady with poor bone structure, but I’m still not willing to wear such a thing in airports in Cleveland or Seattle;
and leather chaps, which weigh ton.
So yes, I have chaps but I borrowed them, so that doesn’t count as me caving in, okay? They belong to a friend and I’m sending them back to her in November. Chaps are not fantasy costuming. They are functional: everything in Arizona has thorns or spikes or needles or fangs. You have to have chaps. It’s practically required.
I did get a leather jacket, too. Lambskin, with a ruffled front. Very chic, but it looks fabulous with jeans and a V-neck sweater, so it’s excellent in airports.
I might buy gloves in Tombstone. Good souvenir…
But no spurs. Spurs are absolutely out. Seriously. I mean it.