Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Colorado Barstool Rancher

Growing up, Don and I both cut our teeth on spaghetti westerns which I suspect sowed the seeds that would later grow into a favorite fashion statement for Don and a frequent travel destination for both of us. There was nothing that made Don look and feel more “macho” than to be all decked out in a western cut Pendleton shirt, boot-cut Levi’s, a gray Stetson hat, and his too-fancy-for-Michigan Frye cowboy boots. Me? When I was a kid I used to tell my folks I was going to marry Gene Autry when I grew up and since I couldn’t do that, Don in his should-have-been-a-cowboy outfit was the next best thing. Every year for over twenty-five years he went out west to roam the Rocky Mountains and hunt and every couple of years I’d tag along. On the years when I went along we’d also explore the back roads, cowpoke towns and tourist traps in a six state triangle with Colorado at the center.
It was on such a trip that one night, just before hunting season opened, we found ourselves sitting on barstools in a cowboy bar, all fancy-upped in our idea of what the locals would wear for a night on the town. Don didn’t drink but he loved cowboy bars and especially if he could strike up a conversation with a stranger. That night a stranger was eager to talk to Don. He planted himself on the next barstool and introduced himself as being from Minnesota. The guy had assumed Don was a local rancher and Don, flattered by assumption, said nothing to change that perception. He even tweaked it a bit with a few well chosen fibs.

After talking scopes and antelopes and the mythical ranch we had just outside of town the Minnesotan laid $300 down on the bar and shoved it towards Don. “Listen,” he said, “my two buddies over there and me are looking for a place to hunt this week but we can’t find anything. Do you think you could help us out and let us hunt on your ranch?”

I could tell by the look on Don’s face that he knew his trip down Fantasy Lane had hit some major pot holes. He looked like a cat who’d just swallowed a canary and was about to barf it back up. You could almost see the wheels in his head turning, trying to figure out what to do. He could have said something like, “Sorry, I’m already maxed out on how many hunters my ranch can support” and that would have been the end of it but Don never cheated the piper when it was time to pay for his mistakes. Instead of brushing off the request he said, “Look, I’ve got something to tell you but I want you to promise you won’t hit me after I do. Now, you have to promise….”

The Minnesotan looked confused but he made the promise and Don promptly told him he didn’t have a ranch and that we were from Michigan. “But I can draw you a map to get to state land,” he quickly added, “where you can hunt for free. That’s a good area to hunt.”  

Who can predict how a stranger is going to react after learning that the guy he’d just talked with for the past twenty minutes could have walked away with his $300 and left behind a bogus map to a ranch that didn’t exist? All the guy could say at first was, “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!”

Don called the bartender over, ordered the stranger another drink and did what Don did best---talk himself out of the corner he’d painted him self in. Five minutes later we were all laughing and the Minnesotan said, “Now will you promise me something?”

“Sure, anything!” Don replied.

“If we see you around town this week, or on state land, will you promise you won’t tell my buddies how easily I could have been scammed out of our money?” he asked. “We had pegged you and your wife for locals---God damn it, you look like ranchers! ---and I was elected to try and broker a deal to hunt on your land. My buddies will never let me hear the end of it if they find out how easily I could have gotten scammed out of our money."

We never saw the trio of would-be hunters again but the story about the night Don was a barstool rancher was a story he repeated to very few people. He was a great story teller and this was fertile material to work with but it was out of character for him to pretend to be someone he wasn’t so he was a tad bit ashamed of himself. And when ever the ‘Barstool Rancher’ came up over the years he’d get that silly, cat-ate-and-barked-up-a-bird look on his face again. Who would have ever guessed Don’s cowboy fashion statement could have led him down the path he rode that night? He was one of a kind, that’s for sure. ©

Another blog entry that is a perfect example of why I and others loved Don can be found here:  Who Shot the Cheyenne?

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