Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Brooklyn Cowboy

by quin browne (writer), new york city, November 11, 2008


They aren't always found West of the Mississippi....

I used to be a Nanny.

Yes, me. Imagine! I worked for CF, and took care of her three children in Brooklyn, dealing with steam heat (oh! how I miss that!), brownstones, the joys of Hasidim neighborhoods (the house across the street has 23 children in it. Yes, 23. You never hear a peep.) All of the fresh vegetables on 86th Street, the D train... yes, all of it.

I'm helping her out a bit, filling in as Nanny Quin again until she finds someone to do the job on a permanent basis. The kids and I get along, I'd known them since my days in Utah, and it's an easy thing to do.

I had one thing I looked for every day, one landmark, when I walked the youngest two children to school...I'd check to see if he was still around, if the winter hadn't taken him away, if he'd survived another season here in New York.

He was.  He'd survived.

The Brooklyn Cowboy.

He's still there, a sturdy, yellow plastic cowboy embedded in the asphalt on Bay two and a half steps from the curb.

He's one of the old plastic cowboys, the kind that sat on a horse, with very bowed legs, his chaps embossed in plastic, his trusty Winchester at the ready. The ten gallon hat remained firmly in place, no matter how hard he rode Blackie or Rusty or Bob out on the Plains looking to protect the wimmenfolk and turn the West into civilisation.

I don't know how long he's been there.. he was rising out of the asphalt before; now, his surface area is larger, but, he's wearing thin and you still can't remove him...I don't know if he was there and the last layer of asphalt is worn down so he's showing again, or, if he was put in on top of the last repaving, an offering to the steamroller gods. I can see some child squatting on the sidewalk, after carefully placing him on the hot asphalt where he's trapped like some modern Mastodon in a flat version of the LaBrea Tar Pits... waiting...waiting.... having the huge steam roller pass over his sturdy body that survives the heat and the weight, feeling the black grit cool around him, and there he'd be, for you to pass over on your way to school or the deli, until one day, you aren't there anymore, you've moved on, something you kept him from ever doing.

One day, a woman with cropped hair and real cowboy boots is standing there, dodging traffic, taking a photo of your offering, a thousand thoughts floating in her head as to how that cowboy ended up as part of a street in Brooklyn.

Yes, I was pleased to see him still there, still bright yellow, still holding his own.

You see, I used to love my plastic cowboys.

They came in packages with a thin cardboard top, hole in the center to let it hang on a rack there at TG&Y... with cowboys and horses (my favourites where the black horses, they looked sooooo sassy), there were some cowboys with rifles, others with a lariat frozen in a perfect circle, ready to lasso that dogie, and each pack always contained the now very politically incorrect Indians in full war regalia.. war bonnets flowing down their backs.  Their horses only had blankets, so, you had to be careful to not mix up these horses with the cowboy ones until you started to lose the mounts a lawnmower.... or, as usually happened, one of the extended legs of the perennially trotting mounts would have a leg weaken from the constant galloping it did to the stick fort and finally fall off, causing a burial. In our case, we broke up the monotony of the day and mixed up the normal burial by melting them with a magnifying glass and the hot New Orleans sun.

When you played with either group, they didn't walk properly... the fixed legs made it difficult for the cowboys to be menacing when advancing towards each other in a gunfight, or either group to attack with any sense of violence, so,  you did this rocking back and forth motion as they moved forward towards each other...not very menacing at all when you think about it. Add to it their wimmin folk were usually some Kewpie doll that towered over them, causing Napoleon complexes to all those multi-coloured men of either group... thus leading to huge numbers of gunfights, now that I look back on it...and it was all very surreal.

My cowboy was always named Gary. I had a thing for High Noon and it's handsome star....I passed the name onto my yellow cowboy in the asphalt. His tenacity fit the name better than any other plastic cowboy ever did before.

The pack would almost last the month of August, that time after my trip to Monroe. They made it though the Bermuda grass under the trees, the forts built in dirt, the dogs making off with horses or a scout or two. Eventually, you were left with some chewed up pieces, which went off to die to the outside toybox, and finally were thrown away when my MawMaw grew tired of the smell of old socks, flip flops missing chunks that had been left behind on the bark of various trees we'd climbed, and the tired remains of plastic cowboys.

I was glad to see Gary was still there. That he was holding strong, brighter than my photo shows him to be last year, defiant in his refusal to disappear into the road, into the atmosphere, not going into that last sunset.

I leaned over, planting my own cowboy boots next to his, and wished him well.

Then, I jumped quickly out of the way of a bus, that cheerfully rolled over Gary's face.

Gary will survive these streets.... he's part of them, a Brooklyn Cowboy, happy in his asphalt bed, content to be smushed daily, waiting to be seen by someone else aside from me, I reckon.


About the Writer

quin browne is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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