An Old Cowboy”
Pamela R. Blaine
© June 2003
said that Billy was a bachelor, a loner, just an old cowboy who kept
pretty much to himself. He
was a thin, wiry man with a ruddy complexion
and wrinkled brow. I
suppose he was an old cowboy but
was ageless to me.
don't recall the first time I ever met Billy, he was just always around from the
time I can remember and was
part of my childhood like the old red barn
and the giant maple trees in the yard
where I grew up. Billy never called me
by my given name. To him I was
"Little Lady" and the
nickname made me feel kind of special.
sounded a little like Walter Brennon when he laughed and
you could easily pick out that laugh
in a crowd, although you rarely
saw Billy in a crowd. He was
pretty much a loner and he seemed to
like it that way. Yet, I always
wondered if there might be
more to Billy than met the eye.
of the time Billy could be found out on his little place on the edge of town.
He lived alone in a little shack not
much bigger than a tool shed but
his horses had a barn many times the
size of his house and he took
care of them than he did himself. He was an "ornery old cuss" as
Granddad described him but I could
tell by the way he
it that he liked Billy.
once asked Mama if Billy had any family and she said she thought
most of his family had died and she
didn't think he had anyone.
thing Billy did have was plenty of horses, and he also ran a few cattle
on his place. He made most of
his living from trading horses and selling
scrap iron. He also used
his team of workhorses to do odd jobs for people
around the area. His
workhorses, Nellie & Daisy pulled wagons, mowers,
disks, and harrows. Billy
never had a car and his only means of transportation were
his horses, so if he needed to go further than he wanted to drive his
team of horses, he would walk or
wasn't uncommon to see someone
hitchhiking once in awhile
it was relatively safe in
those days and people saw it
giving folks a helping hand.
would let me ride his horses and I guess I rode just about everything
from ponies to work horses but he
usually traded them so fast
that I didn't get a chance to get too
attached. Sometimes the horses
came with a name but if they didn't,
I'd get to pick out a name.
was one particular horse that I remember because I named him
and because Billy let me take him to
the Ft. Madison Rodeo up in Iowa.
I belonged to the Pioneer Rangers
Saddle Club and we all went to the rodeo
the year that I turned fourteen.
parade route was long and at one point,
Rebel didn't think he wanted to cross
railroad tracks but finally gave in
and trotted across them quickly as if
he thought they might burn his hooves.
Rebel had been bred for racing and he
loved to run and so did I.
He was really a little too big for me
as I had a hard time reaching a stirrup
to mount up and Billy would teasingly
ask me if
wanted him to get me a stepladder.
only remember being in Billy's house one time. I stepped just in the
because he said, "Come on
in" as he was hunting change to give me for the milk I had
was a drawer that had been left open next to the door
where I stood. I looked down and
there laid a snapshot of a very
girl with her hair blowing
softly in the breeze.
didn't recognize the girl in the picture so I said, "Billy, who
that pretty girl?" Billy
turned to look at what I was talking about
that was when I saw something different
in his face. I can't really
it but as he fixed his eyes on that picture
his face softened and he became quiet
for what seemed like a long time.
He carefully picked up the picture as
if he were
it might crumble in his hands.
He continued looking at the picture
and then suddenly
that I was there.
Without looking up, he simply said,
"That’s Lenore, we were
she's gone now."
It was then that I understood more
about Billy than I ever had before.
did have somebody once and
he loved her so much
a part of him was still with her.
Maybe Billy was "just an old
I'll never forget the way he looked at
Lenore hath "gone before,"
with Hope, that flew beside,
Leaving thee wild for the dear child
that should have been thy bride -
(from Edgar Allen Poe's