Forgetting what’s his face and twinkling like a cowboy…

Forgetting what’s his face and twinkling like a cowboy…

I twinkled because of a memory last night. I actually sparkled for a moment and I felt it. We were trying to remember the name of an actor who was always in the cavalry in old western movies.  He was blonde or silver haired and he wore those hats so well, you know the ones with the little toggles to the front, the crossed sword emblem and he looked handsome beneath its shade with his yellow neckerchief tied loosely against his sallow skin… what’s his face.. you know… Still can’t remember his name though. As we were thinking an image came to mind, more a memory and it was me as a little boy.

I reckon I asked for a cowboy suit every Christmas for at least 4 years. It was just a no-brainer. Every one of my peers was a cowboy too, but none as dedicated as me. Of course there were cowboy suits and there were cowboy suits. Not having a lot of money back then, my cowboy outfit, generally consisted of a plastic fringed waistcoat, a pair of plastic chaps, definitely a hat, one year a pair of plastic silver-coloured spurs, a sheriff’s badge and of course at least one gun and holster.

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Thinking of this last night, I felt my whole body smile.  It went through me to the core.  Every single item in the kit had significance.  My fantasy was to have a cavalry uniform, with the flap-over buttons, the stripe on the trousers, the toggled hat and yellow neckerchief and a Winchester rifle.  I never got to have my fantasy, so I made do with what I could have.  I more than made do because I had a little something extra.  I had my imagination.

One time, I had twin holsters with a tie string for my leg and I would practice tying it off like a gunslinger so I looked dangerous, even in the way I tied it. That I was a skinny little thing, with a wisp of fine blonde hair tussled on my head, didn’t matter one bit.  I knew how to look tough and make it look good, at least in my head.  The sheriff’s badge was once replaced by a Marshall’s badge, which was even better and my hats were never black. Black hats were for baddies and I was only ever the goody.

Drawing? Well partner, I sure knew how to draw me down any varmint that was mean enough to try to come into my town to take over. I spent hour after hour alone in my back garden, perfecting my speed, style, pose, facial expression and accompanying gun noise, until I was the most impressive cowboy on the planet.  No buzzard dared fly overhead, nor injun’ dared poke his head out from behind our shed. No siree! I could sense them from fifty yards away with my back turned and I could draw, spin, shoot twice before hitting the dirt, roll at least three times before shooting again, get back to my feet and dive for cover without even a breaking a sweat.

When I got my Winchester, well all bets were off. I went to war with the entire Sioux nation, killed a thousand Apaches scores of, Navajo, Blackfoot, Pawnee, Cree, Cheyenne, Crow, countless Comanche and half the Mexican army when they invaded my back garden in grey old Dublin.

How I walked, talked, the tilt of my hat, the swish of my chaps, everything held more importance than many of the things that have significance in my life as an adult today. Nothing else mattered when I was in character.  We built forts in my back garden to alternately attack and defend, taking turns, never falling out for fear we’d end the game, always finding that compromise that meant you got hit but not killed so you could carry on.  I was winged so many times; I should have looked like a pin cushion. The summers seemed long, even though they weren’t and the sun shone more in my memory than in truth.  Irish winters were spent making indoor forts or belly-crawling beneath couches, to sneak up on a campfire in our front room.

So this all came back in a blast to me last night and yes I twinkled. I twinkled as the shiny part of my childhood came back to remind me who I am and what lies beneath this ever crinkling, always creaking shell of mine. I still can’t remember who that cowboy was but it doesn’t matter.  Just trying to recall his name made me find one of my twinkles and that was priceless. Long may I twinkle…. No wait… Jeff Chandler!

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Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn Bad Blood and Little Big Boy

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