Friday, July 4
I slept in until 11:00 a.m., which was glorious. It wasn’t a late night out, but I was tired, nonetheless. I got up, sliced a ripe, white nectarine and toasted a gluten-free bagel and spread it with whipped cream cheese. I poured a glass of lite orange juice and sat down to load photos from dinner last night.
Meantime, I turned on the tele and Masterpiece Theater was on OPB. Fitting, on Independence Day, it was a very engaging story about Jane Austen – called Miss Austen Regrets.
Before there was Carrie Bradshaw, a single thirty-something ingenue writer contemplating love in New York City and romantically entangled with her lofty Mr. Big in Sex & The City, there was Jane Austen a single authoress who was considered an expert in the matters of love, but foiled falling into a match, herself, never finding or marrying her very own Mr. Darcy.
In Miss Austen Regrets, Jane is approaching her fortieth birthday and while she seems happily unmarried, she is asked by her twenty year old neice, Fanny, to counsel her on her potential suitors, which forces Jane to contemplate the choices she has made.
Funny, since I was a girl, I loved no writer like Jane Austen, save for Louisa May Alcott, specifically for her family classic Little Women. There’s no character I have related to quite like Little Women’s Jo March. I have often felt like I am living the similar life of such a character, living this drawn out single life, contemplating love, fearing the misfortune of landing in the wrong place of love, and wondering if true love really exists, waiting out, ever hopeful, for my own Professor Friedrich Bhaer, all the while wanting to be independent, free and able to write the stories in my heart and mind that should unravel into books that reflect my heart and soul – about family, sisters, mothers and even love.
This movie about Jane Austen takes a closer look at the brilliant mind that wrote the classic, timeless stories about love, freedom and duty in Pride & Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Sense & Sensibility, Emma, and so on. It’s an interesting take on the single woman who does her best to defend, whether to herself or others, her decision to maintain maidenhood. And, being in a similar state, I found the movie to be heartbreaking.
But, as I finished the movie, I thought about the old fashioned ways of love. And how it might apply today. Sadly, there are so few moments for the romance of former eras where love was, well, still romantic. This made me a little sad.
After the movie, I went to the gym for a 30 minute run. I was in a bit of a rush to get ready for the Rodeo. The important question – summer dress or blue jeans? The last two times I went to the St. Paul Rodeo I was sweating like crazy. Summer dress. I put on my cowgirl boots, cowgirl hat and some western jewelry.
I met Susan at the Whole Foods in Bridgeport. We drove down to her mother and step dad’s compound in St. Paul for a barbecue. We brought strawberry shortcake for dessert.
It was a lovely dinner. We had chicken, a tex-mex rice with blackbeans and peppers, a fresh green salad and I brought my gluten-free biscuits. After dinner and dessert, we walked over to the rodeo. It was an exciting start. The rodeo court rode into the ring, wearing shiny cowgirl gear and tiaras on their cowgirl hats. If I had grown up in Oregon, I would have been on a rodeo court! Susan, Kerry and I decided we were going to be rodeo court girls for Halloween.
The Star Spangled Banner was gloriously sung while a cowboy rode the rink with an American flag. It just doesn’t get more American than attending a rodeo on the Fourth!
The St. Paul Rodeo is one of the top 20 rodeos (per size of purse and it’s significance for qualifying for nationals in Las Vegas), out of over 700 rodeos in the USA. It’s a very exciting show of cowboy skills – bull riding, saddle bronc, team roping, bareback riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, and barrel racing (the only girls event).
Just before the program ended, we headed toward the Tack Room, a western bar set up within the arena. We got in, used free drink chips we got from Susan’s step-brother, and took in the beauty of the masculine, brawny, western-belt-buckle-cladded, spur-boot footed, tight jean wearin’ cowboys! I now know why the Dixie Chicks sang Cowboy Take Me Away, and why Paula Cole pondered Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? and what stirred Pam Houston to write Cowboys Are My Weakness.
Suddenly we heard fireworks. At first notice, it could have been from the excitement of being in a room full of beautiful cowboys. But then everyone was dashing outside and reality set in. We hid our drinks behind a barrel within the saloon and joined the crowds outside to watch the colorful spectacle in the warm Oregon sky. It was magnificent!
After the grand finale of glittering blasts sprouting one-by-one in the sky like a summer garden, the sparks subsided, the smell of smoke wafted and people either left the rodeo grounds or returned to the Tack Room. We said good-bye to Susan’s parents and their guests, and returned to the fine sport of cowboy gawking.
I sware. Jeans never looked so good. Every turn and there was one good looking cowboy after the next. These were real cowboys. From all over the wild west. And we were smitten. We just kept gazing from one direction to the next. We were like a trio of adolescent boys oogling at one fine bronco-bucking butt after the next. In some ways we were mixed in a kind of role reversal as we looked at these fine specimens of grit and perfection. And, just in time to bring me back down to earth, back to being a woman again, a young cowboy grabbed my hand for a dance.
He was very young. Probably twenty-one or twenty-two. Still, my heart fluttered, my palms were a little sweaty. He turned me then took his hat off and when he’d spin me, he’d give me a pat on my bum with his hat as he twirled me again and again. It was intoxicating. He kept spinning me and playfully tapping his hat to my bum with each turn. People were all around us, stomping and clapping along. We were the only couple dancing. I could hear cheers as he’d turn me then playfully tap my skirted bum. I was blushing.
There’s something about a real cowboy playfully flirting with a girl on a western dancefloor. And there I was, this typical feminist-tomboy, and I never felt so girlie! He kept dipping me and spinning me and when it was all done, I was all a-flutter. I gasped and thanked him for the dance, blushing like a school girl. I am rarely one without words, but I was more or less speachless.
I know why Pam Houston wrote Cowboys Are My Weakness. In the every day hum-drum of our modern world, there are few moments when we, as women, get to really feel like women. There’s something about the old fashioned ways of cowboys that still evokes that romance between the sexes, that genteel manner of persuasion, the boot-scootin’ dancing that serves as a prelude to nothing, really. Which was so nice, so refreshing. I could dance with a cowboy over and over again and be content with the innocence of it, the flushed cheeks, the pitter-patters in my heart, and the joy of a simple dance that evoked in me a feeling that a cowboy was really taking me away. And it never felt so wonderful to be a girl from Virginia in her frilly sundress, cowgirl hat and boots.