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Cowboy Heaven Revisited

English: Movie poster of Home on the Prairie (...

Movie poster of Home on the Prairie (1939) starring Gene Autry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On a warm morning in the early ’90s, I was dreaming a Technicolor scene of a little boy in his backyard near a window. He wore a red cowboy outfit and hat, with white fringes on the shirt and white piping around the hat that tied under his chin and fit his head as though one size too small. A shiny radio on the windowsill played a bright 1950s song, Gene Autry I think, as the boy gazed into the distance toward the sound of horses hooves approaching. His mother was inside the kitchen calling his name, but he was transfixed.

As I dreamed this, the four year-old boy from down the block, Bobby, was on my front lawn, calling up to my window. I was always sorry that Bobby’s family let him roam the neighborhood at such a young age, so after the day he knocked on my door so I could peel an orange for him, I took it upon myself to keep an eye out and listen for him whenever I knew he was out. I tried to teach him not to trust strangers, and I told him that I was a stranger. The broad smile that bloomed across his face told me he would have none of that. He had already decided we were friends.

On that warm morning, Bobby wanted me to watch him go around in a circle while lying in the grass. Whatever my dream had wanted to be was cut short, but I was left with a short scene that felt blissful and comfortably old-fashioned like the fifties of crisp clean situation comedies about families with very small problems — funny mountains made from molehills. I watched Bobby for a moment, praised his new talent and asked if anyone knew where he was so early in the morning. He promised to go home and come out later when other kids were out.

I began to write Cowboy Heaven.

This story has been on one of my pages for a while. I revisited it a couple of days ago and realized how much I’ve learned in the past year, because there were parts of it that made me wonder why I thought it was done. For those of you who’ve read it before and decided to be kind, I thought I’d let you know that I’ve re-edited it over the last two days. For those who haven’t seen it, I sigh, “Thank goodness.” Of course, now I wonder how I’ll feel about it next year.

How do you feel about your old stories? 


16 thoughts on “Cowboy Heaven Revisited

  1. It varies so much for me. I am an unfortunately good judge of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and I always have been. Which means I nearly set our house on fire by accident at age twelve when I reread the novel I had written at age ten and realized that nobody could EVER see it. But then, I came across a smidge of the stuff I had saved from back then (a story – not the novel) and realized it wasn’t bad for a ten year old on a manual typewriter. But that I would have never accepted the caveat “for a” after my name, even when I was ten.

    • I hear you. Thank goodness I’m a bit of a pack rat. I was no where near finishing my novel from age eleven when I stopped and just put it away. Funny thing is, when I read what there was of it this year, I was surprised that it sounded like I had written it, despite the expected shortcomings.

  2. I loved the old western movies and saw many of them on the late late show. Riders of the purple sage was the first book that took me into the story. I have few regrets but one is that I burned all the journals I started as a girl when I turned 30. Dreams are another matter- I am working on remembering more pieces after I wake.

    • I’ve only kept a journal for certain spaces of time. As a teenager, I kept stopping because I was afraid someone would sneak into my hiding place, read them and torture me for what I’d written. Now I’m glad I never got rid of any of them, especially the one I referred to to make sure of my facts in the story/post about meeting The Police.

  3. Sometimes I cringe at my old writings and can barely stand to know they exist (same goes for old drawings). Other times I sit down and read them all the way through and I’m stunned at the glorious creative being I used to be. Often I have both responses at the same time, in the same piece. 🙂

  4. Whenever I think I am not growing as a writer, I pull out something I’ve written a year or more ago. It always makes me laugh and cringe and realize, hey, I’ve learned something after all. And like you, I realize that a year or ten from now I’ll pull out what I’m writing today and laugh and cringe. I have a clear memory of Christmas Eve, pulling my little straw chair up to the Hifi stereo and listening to the album by Gene Autry (my father called him Gene Artery) singing ‘Ten Little Reindeer’. Confession: I still listen to this old album on Christmas.

    • Ooh! You just made me smile. That album sounds like fun. There’s one old compilation album my family listened to at Christmas time that I wish I had on my iPod now. (My stereo doesn’t work anymore. 😦 ) But we finally have a cool evening here, so nothing feels so awful right now. 🙂

  5. I haven’t written a short story in a long, long while and the early pages of a novel are buried somewhere in the loft. There’s a historical novella up there somewhere too. I find it hard to revisit them but I guess I should for some reflection if nothing else. I guess by not visiting them I don’t know whether or not I’m improving – damn, I hope I am !

  6. This is my first time reading your story, “Cowboy Heaven”. It’s so colorful, playful, and alive! I imagine Bobby’s delight in his new friendship with you and the joy he experiences from the interactions with “you”. I have old prose and poetry that I sometimes revisit. I’m always a bit surprised that I wrote them, but almost always think that, by comparison, I’ve come a long way in telling my truth, and being transparent.

    • Thanks, Ms. Empress. But are you referring to the story in this post of how I came to write Cowboy Heaven, or do you mean the actual story? (Sorry about my confusion.)

      And about revisiting the old stuff: as we continue to write, I hope we always feel that forward motion that means we’re getting better and better at it. It’s a good feeling isn’t it?

  7. Your writing always flows so nicely.

    When I read my old stories I’m surprised at how good they are – and how tortured. My boyfriend noticed I tend to “edit as I write”. Which makes the story read very jerky and unnatrual. What strikes me is how, if I had shortened and simplified my stories, they could have been quite good. But I never bothered because at the time I thought they weren’t good enough to bother with.

    • Thanks, Amelie. I edit as I write, too. Freewrites aggravate me no end, though I understand why they’re helpful for those who second guess most of what they write or who can’t quite get the words to flow. I just hate to leave the bulk of my editing for later. It takes some of the joy out of it for me when I see loads of simple mistakes that I could’ve remedied if I’d read through a few paragraphs before going on.

      Maybe when times are a little slower, you’ll make it back to at least one of your old stories and see what you can do with it. Maybe your boyfriend will still be kind enough to read it and tell you what he thinks.

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