So we fifty-something cowgirls had just turned three-years old when we first met. Alas, I am the older, by exactly one month! My parents had built a new house in a new neighborhood, like so many neighborhoods of the mid-fifties fashioned for World War II veterans with growing young families. Both of our dads were members of that "greatest generation," Navy veterans of the South Pacific theatre.
I remember our parents were visiting at the edge of our adjoining properties as C's house was still in the building phase. Her mom was holding her baby brother and somehow we both ended up on my new swingset. There began a lifelong friendship so unusual today as neighbors move off and lose touch in our fragmented society.
We galloped all over that neighborhood, because it was some years later that people began putting up fences. Red haired Randy lived up the street and we all played together, although I do not recall that the boys in the neighborhood ever rode stick horses. Seems that being horse crazy was a girl thing. Randy's hero was Davy Crocket, king of the wild frontier, and often we would awaken as we heard him singing that song at the top of his lungs in our backyard early in the morning. He even wore a coonskin cap atop his carrot top head! But we cowgirls loved everything western too! We pretended to be Annie Oakley (that's her picture here with this post), toting our pistols, charging around in our cowboy boots (mine were red with spurs), and fringed skirts, vests and hats. Late afternoons brought reruns of Gene Autry and Roy Rodgers on the black and white television. The shows alternated being shown on different days. C's favorite was Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans. My favorite was Gene Autry, the singing cowboy who my dad took me to see at the rodeo when I was five years old. C and I would fight and argue about who was best.
We spent carefree summers running barefoot through the grass, playing outside in the hot afternoons, coming in to eat dinner and running out again to catch fireflies in jars with holes punched through the lid with an ice pick. When we were called in for bathtime, the creases in our necks would be lined with dirty sweatbeads. One summer we found a horned toad in C's front yard, and we took him to the zoo to live! Oh, and I can never forget the time when both our mothers went to the grocery store together. As C and I raced out of the store to see who could get to the larger mechanical horse first with our dimes, my big toe got stuck in the electric door. Really stuck! Bystanders pulled and tugged with no success. A crowd gathered; the manager appeared with our mothers and after much strenuous pulling, my toe was finally released with barely a bruise. Still our moms decided that this warranted a trip to the doctor and an x-ray which revealed no permanent damage.
It was at this same grocery store that a real elephant was brought in for children to ride. Her name was Topper as she was named for Top Value stamps that shoppers collected to redeem for various gifts. C and all the neighborhood kids had been able to ride the elephant, and I wanted to ride her so badly, I threw a fit at the store. My dad said that elephants were dangerous, unpredictable, wild animals and all it would take was for a car to backfire to send that elephant charging through the parking lot trampling everyone, so he refused let me ride and would not relent despite my pleas. Because of the fit, I was promised a spanking when I got home. My dad later said that he would have forgotten all about it, but I begged all the way home to not get the spanking, so he HAD to follow through. So I never got to ride an elephant, but I STILL want to!
Growing up in the fifties, was carefree in a lot of ways, but not perfect. All families have their problems, and ours were no different in that respect, but it was a different time. Most mothers in our neighborhood stayed home and raised their own children - and in some ways it was " like a village". Neighbors looked after each other more and helped supervise each others children. Our mothers took their iced tea out into the backyard and visited as they hung out the daily wash, and we children played under their watchful eye. No, I do NOT want to go back to no dryer or air conditioner, but in many ways it was a simpler time and children benefited from a slower pace and homecooked meals eaten at a table set with real dishes with an entire family sitting around it.
A lifelong friendship is a rare thing today. The good fortune to reap the blessings of a friendship based on trust, shared history and common interests such as reading, history, religion, a good margarita, and a love of animals, especially horses! Forever friends; forever cowgirls!