Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Brooklyn Cowboy Rides On

I used to be a Nanny.

Yes, me. Imagine! I worked for C, and took care of her three children in Brooklyn, dealing with steam heat (oh! how I miss that!), brownstones, the real joys of Hasidim neighborhoods (the house across the street has 23 children in it. Yes, 23. You never hear a peep.) All of the fresh vegetables on 86th Street, the D train... all of it.

I'm helping her out a bit, filling in as Nanny Quin again until she finds someone to do the job on a permanent basis. The kids and I get along, and it's an easy thing to do.

I had one thing I looked for every day, when I walked the youngest two children to school... and when I had to walk towards the same area, I kept an eye out, to see if he was still around, if the winter hadn't taken him away, if he'd survived another season here in New York.

He was.

The Brooklyn Cowboy.

He's still there, a yellow plastic cowboy embedded in the asphalt on Bay two and a half steps from the curb.

He's one of the old cowboys, the kind that sat on a horse, with very bowed legs, his chaps embossed in plastic, his trusty Winchester at the ready. The ten gallon hat remained firmly in place, no matter how hard he rode Blackie or Rusty or Bob out on the Plains looking to protect the wimmenfolk and turn the West into civilisation.

I don't know how long he's been there.. he was rising out of the asphalt before; now, his surface area is larger, but, he's wearing thin and you still can't remove him...I don't know if he was there and the last layer of asphalt is worn down so he's showing again, or, if he was put in on top of the last repaving, an offering to the steamroller gods. I can see squatting on the sidewalk, after carefully placing him on the hot asphalt where he's trapped like some modern Mastodon in a flat version of the LaBrea Tar Pits... waiting...waiting.... having the huge steam roller pass over his sturdy body that survives the heat and the weight, feeling the black grit cool around him, and there he'd be, for you to pass over on your way to school or the deli, until one day, you aren't there anymore, you've moved on, something you kept him from ever doing.

One day, someone with cowboy boots is standing there, dodging traffic, taking a photo of your offering, options floating in her head as to how your cowboy ended up as part of a street in Brooklyn.

Yes, I was pleased to see him still there, still bright yellow, still holding his own.

I used to love my plastic cowboys.

They came in packages with a thin cardboard top, hole in the center to let it hang on a rack... with cowboys and horses (my favourites where the black horses, they just looked sassy), some of the cowboys with rifles, others with a lariat frozen in perfection, ready to lasso that dogie, and very the politically incorrect (although not at the time) Indians in full war regalia.. war bonnets flowing down their backs. Their horses only had blankets, you had to be careful to not mix up the horses until you started to lose them, or, as usually happened, one of the extended legs of the perennially trotting mounts would have a leg weaken from the constant galloping it did to the stick fort and finally fall off, causing a burial. In our case, we broke up the monotony of the day by melting them with a magnifying glass and the New Orleans sun.

The cowboys never walked correctly when you played with them... the fixed legs made it difficult to be menacing when advancing towards each other in a gunfight, therefore, you did this rocking back and forth motion as they moved forward...not very menacing at all when you think about it. Add to it their wimmin folk were usually some Kewpie doll that towered over them, causing Napoleon complexes... thus leading to huge numbers of gunfights, now that I look back on it...and it was all very surreal.

My cowboy was always named Gary. I had a thing for High Noon....I passed the name onto my yellow cowboy in the asphalt. His tenacity fit the name better than any other plastic cowboy's ever did before.

The pack would almost last the month of August, that time after my trip to Monroe. They made it though the Bermuda grass under the trees, the forts built in dirt, the dogs making off with horses or a scout or two. Eventually, you were left with some chewed up pieces, which went off to die to the outside toybox, and finally were thrown away when my MawMaw grew tired of the smell of old socks, flip flops missing chunks that had been left behind on the bark of various trees we'd climbed, and the tired remains of plastic cowboys.

I was glad to see Gary was still there. That he was holding strong, brighter than my photo showed him to be last year, defiant in his refusal to disappear into the road, into the atmosphere, not going into that last sunset.

I leaned over, planting my own cowboy boots next to his, and wished him well.

Then, I jumped quickly out of the way of a bus, that cheerfully rolled over Gary's face.

Gary will survive these streets.... he's part of them, a Brooklyn Cowboy, happy in his asphalt bed, content to be smushed daily, waiting to be seen by someone else aside from me, I reckon.

Yippie-ki-yo, get along little MTA bus.


Bud said...

Another outstanding and very printable piece. Submit this, Quin! I love this story. Just don't mention the exact location so some ass hat doesn't go and pry him out or something.

Quin said...

bud, one day, people will realise you are me complimenting myself in a different font.

Mrs. S. said...

You would have chuckled deeply had you been watching me from the diningroom, bowleggedly "swaggering" in place in my computer chair while reading this piece! (You'll just have to imagine the sound effect and song playing in the shadows of my mind's cowboy and Indian games of long ago). It gave me such a nostalgic gallop. Yes, Q, publish...PUBLISH this stuff! You are writing chapter after chapter!

MRS. S. said...

Furthermore, I sell books (yes! whole BOOKS)for $25 a pop with less meat in the entire thing than just one of your entries. You know the kind, one sentence per page with BIG PICTURES.
Heck! You could make a really, really BIG picture of the Brooklyn Cowboy, and...just do it! ok?

Quin said...

no, i am not mrs. s, either.

Peter Varvel said...

LOVE this detail about NY!

I had the plastic Noah's Ark and all of the animals from Arco gas station, in the early seventies.

I might be mrs. s.
you never know . . .

modelbehavior said...

I never got plastic cowboys - only dolls and babrbies! Maybe that's why I'm so messed up.

golfwidow said...

I prefer the concept of plastic cowboys to plastic army guys.

OreIda said...

Awww, c'mon. Plastic army guys were lots of fun growing up. We used to tie them to firecrackers.

There'll never be a last cowboy
As long as there's still some ole cows--
Who'd be crazy 'nuf to round 'em up
'Cordin' to how the law allows?

Ya can't do this, ya can't do that,
So sez that gall dern guv'ament--
It's like they thinks they know the best--
Don't they sees our predicament?

Though they near did in the farmer
And 'bout wrecked the ole family farm--
So long as they don't rile cowboys,
They won't be doin' too much harm.

As long as we's got our good hosses,
Cowboys will still be ridin' here--
Give us a long lonely prairie--
Sparklin' stars in a night that's clear.
-- by Glen Enloe from Independence, Missouri

Actress Andrea said...

I just love you. :)

Quin said...

aa~you make me blush... all of you do.

ida~you find the oddest things. i'm glad you share.

gw~me, too. i sent over that bag of the soldiers to the jarhead in his last care package.. he said the bulk of them were missing arms and legs. go figure.

mb~my barbies were missing parts, much like the plastic soldiers mentioned above. i can't imagine not being mired in forts and muck. i love reading your version of the life my mom wanted me to live.

peter~you are if you can, can.

Quin said...

mrs s~i can't think of you now without thinking of you walking this way. make sure you and s and m walk about on thanksgiving doing the brooklyn cowboy stride.

and i'll grin and do the same.