Going west-ern

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.

I caved in, 12 hours later, and bought 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. It’s 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 used leather gloves in the garden, afterward.

No chaps. Or spurs. Chaps and spurs are absolutely out. Seriously. I mean it.

24 thoughts on “Going west-ern”

  1. but chaps will protect you legs from chafing and you might need spurs to encourage the horse to move a little more quickly????? Maybe?

  2. The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook says all cow people (including those who are only pretending for the sake of reseach) must wear chaps or chinks. One or the other is needed to complete the outfit. Do we get pictures?

  3. Sounds very interesting.

    I have spurs if you want to borrow them. I had a horse that if I did not wear my spurs she would not do what I wanted. But if I had spurs on.. she heard them while I walked around and she was an angel. It was a huge factor on the enjoyability of my ride, and doing what I wanted versus what she wanted.

    The gloves you need should be bought from a farm store.. heavy leather… a must. You can use them for gardening later. A good investment. The leather is heavy enough to protect you hands.. but not to sweat to death. Mine were washable.

    Well.. have fun. I always wanted to go on a roundup. My girlfriends mom is in Montana and they do that in the fall. I have my fingers crossed for that.

    Cant wait to see you when you do your book signing.

  4. Chaps may prevent against scrapes, burrs, cactus prickles, bugs, spiders, snakes…get the picture? Real cowboys didn’t wear that stuff for show. They didn’t have the money to spare on frippery, right? If they did, they drank/whored it. At least, that’s what you’ve told me 🙂 Oh, and add a bandana, for dust and sweat.

  5. Mary – everything everyone has written on this blog is true. But wait until you get to Tombstone to buy some of this stuff. Wild rags also protect your neck from getting sunburned … as do the gloves. Chaps … they are expensive and we have only one day where you ‘might’ need them. The guns we wear are not loaded, unless I specify a saftey officer, usually an active police officer or military individual on the ride, who will be armed and loaded. But they know what to do … usually to intimidate an upset client on the ride – ha!
    There’ll be no whoring on the trip, unless I get a house percentage.
    Photos — I share everyone’s photos. This past trip I sent out a DVD of approx 1,400 photos … and some of them were actually pretty good.
    I suggest no spurs, unless you know what you’re doing. I’ve seen some tough cowboys bucked off because they were too rough with them.
    And, when you’re doing your book signing, dressing the part is a good idea.
    Some of your bloggers should join us!!!

  6. As usual, Gretchen and Jennifer have it right! Faith sounds VERY well-grounded to me! Having ridden motorcycles for years, I can attest to the necessity of a good pair of gloves at ALL times. — We never actually intend to fall off, after all 🙂 🙂


  7. Me, I like horses from a good distance, preferably on the far side of a stout fence. But, despite my 75 years, I do have a nice pair of (black) Durango cowboy boots — toes not too pointed — and I love them.

  8. I just heard from Steve Shaw, who runs the tour. He was very nice about not chanting, “Nyah nyah nyah, I told you so!” He also says the chaps might not be such a bad idea, but I shouldn’t buy any additional gear in Ohio because it might not be right for Arizona conditions.

    And if I get five of my readers to sign up, I’ll win a toaster.

    I’m just saying.

  9. That’s right Mary — a toaster of your choice!! Maybe a coffe maker too. We have a Keurig and love it!! The sixth person gets you a pound of Arbuckle coffee too!! What a guy!

  10. You make me laugh! So much fun. I wish I could sign up…how much does it cost? I would love to act as journey photojournalist for your far away blurry memories. You really shouldn’t worry about photos. If you were dressed like that in a Kmart parking lot or a Starbucks it would be weird, but since you’ll be amongst horses and other cow-folk it will look normal.

    I would compromise and go with half chaps, but that’s just because I don’t like belty things around my waist, which tends to disappear when I sit since I’m chubby. Gloves are a MUST…make sure they are fitted so you can feel the reigns in your hand. You don’t have to do cowboy boots, any comfortable heeled riding boot will suffice.

    That said, please pass on the following:

    Bolo ties
    Starched Wranglers
    Braided pigtails

  11. Mary,
    You are HILARIOUS!! Just like Ellen DeGeneres, I know I can count on you for a good dose of medicine!! I wish I could go with you – that sounds WONDERFUL!!! Have a fantastic time! Maybe you can get an IRS agent to sign up with you!! 😉
    Elaine P.

  12. You may very well be taking this research business a bit too far. The Public Library has plenty of videos about the old west. Trust me, it sounds like fun but it will be hot, dusty, sore and dangerous. How about a nice cruise followed by a day at the spa?

  13. A cruise, Harvey? Never. Not with a name like mine.

    Does the name “Andrea Doria” ring any bells for you? That’s the name of a luxury oceanliner that sank off the coast of Massachusetts in 1956 after a Titanic-like disaster at sea. Not only is Doria my maiden name, my given name is Mary Rose, which is also the name of a ship that sank.

    If you ever wanted a sign from God that you should not go on a cruise, growing up with a name like “Mary Rose Doria” would fit the bill.

  14. Kimberley, I just found out that a friend in West Virginia used to be majorly into all things equestrian. She has a pair of chaps that should fit me, so I’ll be borrowing hers for the event.

    MY HAT ARRIVED LAST NIGHT, by UPS! And it not only fits, it looks gooooood.

    Definitely getting gloves.

    And I’ve ordered a leather jacket that’s way cool, 60% off, and could work very well with mildly western fashion while also being useful for Ohio.

    RE: starched Wranglers. I didn’t even know it was possible to starch blue jeans. Why would anyone do that?

    I have been told that Wranglers are best for riding because they have extra-long legs and won’t ride up (so to speak) over your boots when you’re on horseback. I already have size 8 Bestow jeans that run long, fit well, and have a 9-inch rise so my aged ass is not on display. I think I’ll stick with those.

    Re: braided pigtails. Not only are pigtails supremely inappropriate in anyone over the age of four, they would require that I grow my hair our for about two years to reach braiding length. NOT gonna happen.

  15. Hee hee…you make me laugh.

    Starched wranglers aside, why would anyone starch anything? What is this, 1856? But starch they do, to keep them wrinkle free for the rodeo. At least the cowboys I knew. Good lord.

    I think the thing with wranglers or other pants made for riding is the way the seams are sewn on the inside where your leg parts come into contact with horse parts/saddle parts. Less chaffing? That’s my guess.

    Chaps! Lady, you’re gonna look good!

  16. (No chaps. Or spurs. Chaps and spurs are absolutely out. Seriously. I mean it.)

    You soooo know how this will end, don’t you?

  17. Okay, Art. You’re right. A friend has just sent me TWO pairs of chaps. They both fit. And my cousin Faith has offered to send me spurs, so yeah… I know how this is going to end!

  18. A ching ching-a-ling with every step
    We all know where the cowgirl is kept
    In the chaps and the spurs maybe in part
    But mostly a cowgirl is grown in the heart.

    I not-so-secretly can’t wait to see photographic evidence of this adventure!

  19. Mary,
    I have chaps…they were Grace’s when she took riding lessons. Come visit and try them on and you are welcome to borrow them.

  20. …well, I should have read through all the messages before I offered the chaps! Sounds like a wonderful trip.

  21. Go buy Wranglers! The seam is on the OUTSIDE so it won’t chafe. Please trust me on this one…although you do have two pairs of chaps now…and a hat.

    I’m dying to see all this of course.

    And, I’m thinking that since Jive is retired, this trip sounds like fun. Please I know you need a new toaster. Anywhere to get details?

  22. Kristi, ARE YOU COMING TO TOMBSTONE? That would be sooooooo intensely cool. Go back to the blog and click on the link to Great American Adventures. Steve Shaw (see above for his comment) will be delighted to sign you on. It’s not cheap, but it’s going to be big fun.

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