Spilling the Beans
by Eva Pasco
Ever since Philip Danforth Armour opened a meat packing plant
in Chicago - "Armour" - it "behoofed"
many a cowpoke to round up the herd along the Southwestern trails.
By 1866, the bounty on each long-horn fetched as much as $40 a head.
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ rawhide! Striking a balance between speed and maintaining the cattle’s weight meant
not going steer crazy by beefing it up to town.
Time to graze!
I have stirring memories of cowboys sitting around the
campfire sipping strong coffee and spilling the
beans whether from chili or swapping
I still can recall some of the lyrics to “Old Texas,” one of the cattle drive
ballads committed to memory from fourth grade music class during the early sixties.
Its cadence reminded me of a horse’s lazy canter to his rider’s harmonica playing:
I'm going to leave old Texas now/They've got
no use for the long-horn cow/They've plowed and fenced my cattle
range/And the people there are all so
That same year my father rustled up the family for a day trip to Cowboy Town. This 28-acre, Wild West theme park
flourished in Plainville,
until it closed in the 70s. Even without tumbleweeds, sagebrush, and dry gulches along the Eastern seaboard, it
was a Seinfeld “Festivus for the Rest of Us.” A rip roarin’ regalia of gun fights and
stagecoach holdups kicked up plenty of dust for the roadside
Jostled by the bumpy ride along rugged terrain, the sound of hoof beats closed in on us, and gun fire startled
conveyance came to an abrupt halt after being accosted by masked bandits brandishing their six-shooters and barking orders to step out with our hands up. Before
we could raise ‘em high to the sky, the driver reached for his rifle and shot both banditos
Back on safe ground in the center of Cowboy Town, we barely dusted ourselves off when we
witnessed a bar brawl.
Two unsavory dudes tumbled out of the saloon and rolled on the ground delivering drunken sucker punches until the
sheriff hauled their sacroiliacs to jail. Then a heated argument brewed between two gunslingers who challenged each
other to a duel. While pacing, my younger sister began whining for
The one quickest to draw mortally wounded his adversary who slumped in a heap on the ground.
Minutes later, an undertaker attired in somber garb appeared, doling business cards to the crowd before scooping up
the carcass on his stretcher.
This grand finale prompted my dad to walk inside the saloon to order soft drinks and popcorn for his three buffalo
gals who waited on the bench for
At four years old, my younger sister had a severe case of the “gimmes.” Against my father’s better judgment, he let her hold the box of
popcorn. My mother snapped a picture of my sis
stuffing her face so her cheeks bulged like a chipmunk. Afraid there wouldn’t be enough popcorn for herself, she pulled away just
as I was about to grab a handful. In doing so, she dropped the box, spilling all the beans. Another candid stashed
with the family
For the longest time, I hung onto Digger O’Toole’s souvenir card. I wish I kept it as a memento of Cowboy Town, an imaginative figment of the Wild West. As in life, we
instinctively know when to hold ‘em or fold ‘em. I'll take my horse and I'll take my rope/And hit the
trail upon a lope/Say adios to the Alamo/ And turn my head toward Mexico.
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