COWBOY CIVILITY IN AN UNCIVIL WORLD
By Dr. C.P. Estés
…suddenly some look-at-me guy at the bar cat-calls, “F- man, don’t you know more than one note, you loser?”
In ancient mythos, the rainmaker symbolizes a part of the psyche which detaches and leaves the mad world, going into the forest and down under the roots of the trees, seeing the world from there…
through a unique, set-apart zeitgeist, a spirit of our times that is not dedicated to apoplexy over cultural contretemps, but just calm observations, a remembering of honor… and unusual ways of dealing with the dishonorable.
Here are two odd rainmakers…
I was listening to some live musicians tonight, the stage was decrepit, the lighting too orange making everyone look like Tolland man from the peat bogs. Yet the old malnourished acoustic blues guitar player also played a mean blues harmonica that made your sternum ache in a way that is near ecstatic.
He some kind of shapechanger alright, looking like one creature one moment and some other kind of critter the next. He’s so skinny and his guitar so big, he looks like a leaf carrier ant. But, when he sings, he curls back his lips to sustain the notes and his big front teeth are exactly brother to the beaver, and his soft roll of pompadour wobbles like a cockatoo’s as he gets down.
The audience however, is rapt with his skill. He starts out singing on one note only, “I haint gonna go down to the city, I haint gonna go down to the well, I haint gonna go down to the city, cause they’ll chain me to a bad woman, take me straight to hell”.
He goes on and on in that one note only, adding more and more stanzas, telling the stories … and blams the strings fine on his black mirror guitar with the white piping.. and the audience is hanging on his heart, right with him.
…I’m easy for blues, so I’m swooning on the riffs, but suddenly some look-at-me guy at the bar cat-calls, “F- man, don’t you know more than one note, you loser?”… and then sits back, sweeping the audience, looking for others to approve his incredibly intelligent remark.
Except in the code of honor out here in the west, and perhaps elsewhere as well, hecklers of any kind, are considered perverts who smear themselves with their own feces.
So, what happens instead, is two cowboys stand up from their beers, and push their hats back on their heads and flatten their foreheads like diamondback rattlers, and walk all bow-legged slow toward the guy who just vomited up globs of ignorance for everyone to see.
and they are rainmakers… instead of creaming this fellow they consider a snotface tinhorn, instead of literally grabbing the nerve plexus in between his shoulder and neck til he screams like a girl… they take another tack.
Says one quietly, “Hey little brother, I probably misunderstood what you said, probably mistook that you meant to be disrespectful of this fine musician. You didn’t say that did you? I misheard you, right?”
And the other wrangler says, “Yeah I think I misunderstood you too.”
…and the tinhorn squeals in piglet, “No, no, you’re right, I meant my comment a whole other way, nothing mean. Not even a little.”
And the rattlers stopped rattling suddenly, and the cowboys knuckle-slap him a little too hard on the tender part of his upper arm, saying, “Well, great! We suspected we were the ones in the wrong. Thanks for setting us straight.”
But you can read in the assessing squints of the two cowpokes, their mouths are smiling but their eyes are not… if the man makes one smart aleck remark, they’re going to turn him into a bar rag– and less– on the spot.
And they bought a round of drinks for him, a poisonous brew called Gunpowder, telling him cowboys tossed this back in one gulp and always ask for more.
After they picked him up off the floor, and laid him back into his bar stool listing sta’board, they sauntered back to their tables, mission taken care of…
and the audience watching did not gloat, but gave quiet nods of approval…
and the acoustic guitar man who took on the faces of different animals as he played in all his passion, just kept on strangling the strings good, and sent the cowboys one military nod and a wink…
and went on singing his song of pirate queens and tender hearted men and the hard time long ago when men had to row for years to find their ways back home.
and all this tonight, in a bar nearly dark as night– even though conflict– the up close confrontation wherein everyone could see the pores of the faces, see how the amount of white of the eye changed with each emotion, hear the tones of each voice, smell the beer on mustaches, measure the man before them in spades…
and now this seemed like rest and restoration– not to mention original coyote strategy– compared to the petty and often pointless go-nowhere skirmishes fought at great disassociated distances in the upper world nowadays.
I hope even peeking into the above 3-D view of odd and interesting people who have equally odd and interesting ways of seeing and acting– rather than the same old predictable ways of responding– was refreshing for you too.
I hope too that the man who for whatever reason tried to broadcast insult he probably learned on the radio somewhere… saw something useful in maybe trying to be part of what people were enjoying, rather than trying to graffiti over it with his trite remark.
Maybe we all could sometimes use a refresher course in recalling there’s often no sense in throwing so much fire at those one doesnt ‘get,’ or care for… and certainly with nothing to show for all the flaming afterward.
Like my father used to say… he being a tailor from the Old Country:
“Smart people dont step in a pile of manure. They find a way around it.”
(… I think our cowboys did just that…)
“It’s easy to tell a man to go to hell, it’s much harder to get him to cooperate with your plan.”
(I think our lone man at the bar might be learning some of that now…)
I try to remember all these myself, for it seems a truism for striving to, not always successfully, but trying to lead a life of ‘Live and Let Live,’ rather than ‘Crash and Burn,’ …or ‘Burn and Then Crash.’
May it be so for thee, also this day.
“COWBOY CIVILITY IN AN UNCIVIL WORLD”, © 2009, All rights reserved. Dr. C.P. Estés, poem from La Pasionaria: Collected Poems of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: A Manifesto on The Creative Fire. This particular work may be used non-commercially as long as it is kept entirely intact, not added to nor taken from, and this complete notice including usage, author’s name and copyright notice are clearly printed upon it. Other permissions email@example.com
Painting by JoeRayKelly, ©All Rights Reserved… see his work here.