Category: 1950’s Florida

Connected photos or moments to my experiences in the 1950’s

The Smell of Rain

I am not a synesthete, a person who was born with a perceptual phenomenon in which the stimulation of a sensory or cognitive pathway leads to an automatic experience of a second sensation. I don’t see colors with letters or words, taste an emotion, or get an uncomfortable tactile response to hearing fingernails on a blackboard. However, I do share a cultural synesthesia with people who have a positive response to the smell of fresh rain, particularly after a prolonged dry spell, or the aroma of newly mown grass, particularly from a clover pasture or a Bermuda covered baseball outfield.

Isolated showers in Florida in the 1950’s were a very unique experience for me as a child because I clearly remember many times witnessing rain falling on one side of a street and not crossing to the other side or seeing a downpour approaching across a distant pasture that abruptly stopped before reaching me. The smell produced by those rain moments struck me as incredibly fresh and invigorating and seemed to emotionally lighten my mood no matter what I had been feeling prior to that natural occurrence. I do not witness those undefined barriers to isolated showers as often any more, but I do see the phenomenon along the Gulf of Mexico coast regularly. Storms appear on the horizon over the water, move shoreward, and dissipate without coming ashore, but that observation does not engender the same responses I had as a child on land. When I am on a golf course, showers do drift over fairways, but never really stop on one side of a fairway as if there is an impenetrable invisible wall prohibiting an advance. Did my childhood imagination create a more distinct sensation than actually occurred? I don’t believe so.

Petrichor is a word coined by two Australian chemists in 1964 for the earth smell produced when rain falls on dry land. That word does not evoke the aroma I’m familiar with at all, but I have found no better word for the physical experience either. Karl Smallwood contended in “What Causes the Smell After It Rains,” that “There are three primary sources of smells that commonly occur after rain. The first, the “clean” smell, in particular after a heavy thunderstorm, is caused by ozone. Ozone (scientifically known as trioxygen due to the fact that it is comprised of three oxygen atoms) is notably pungent and has a very sharp smell that is often described as similar to that of chlorine. Some people can smell ozone before the storm has even arrived. Before a thunderstorm rolls in, lightning can sometimes rip nitrogen and oxygen molecules in the environment to pieces. This can ultimate result in a small amount of ozone forming, which wind then carries down to ground level. Ultraviolet light in the atmosphere is also known to split O2 molecules, with the freed oxygen atoms sometimes joining with oxygen molecules for an ozone party.” His explanation has a ring of scientific truth but also doesn’t elicit my childhood memories.

From Chapter 1 of Growing Up Floridian:

Rain fell across the street, but not even a drop touched me. I saw concentric circles form as drops hit the surface of the water in the ditch 40 feet away. My five year-old mind had problems processing the isolated storm cell phenomena of Florida. I wondered if there was a barrier in the middle of the street. My family, my parents, my brother, and I, moved to Indiantown from Springfield, Massachusetts two weeks earlier after my father’s return from his tour of duty in Korea. I knew I wasn’t supposed to leave the yard, but Smokey was at school in the second grade and my mother was busy in the house. There was no one else at hand to ask why the rain didn’t come across the street. I looked both ways, saw no vehicles, and dashed to the other side of the two-lane road. The rain moved on into the woods behind the ditch and the barbed wire fence that bordered the property.

Wild Hogs in Florida

A NPR Morning Edition news report last September by Jessica Meszaro, “Meat Industry Turns Florida’s Feral Hogs Into Prime Pork,” reminded me of my encounters with wild pigs on the Quarter Circle A ranch in Manatee County in the 1950’s, particularly shortly after my family moved onto the ranch in 1957.

My father quit his ranch hand job on the Circle T spread near Lake Okeechobee for a similar position on the ranch outside of Parrish. Although the pay was not much greater, the opportunity to build his own new house, have a cow to milk, have chickens for eggs and meat, have a steer to butcher once or twice a year, and have a garden as benefits enticed both my parents. His salary of $250 a month, supplemented by beef, chicken, eggs, milk, housing, and utilities, allowed him to buy a decent truck, a serviceable car for my mother, and a horse he could train and use in local calf roping competitions. He felt he was in hog heaven.

Wild pigs added to that sense of wellbeing. He and Vick Blackstone, the ranch foreman, decided one way to lessen the destructive impact of hogs on the pasture land Vick was trying to develop to improve beef production would be to trap the feral pigs, keep them in a pen for a couple months to fatten them on grain, and butcher them for food to feed the ranch families. They built two large wooden traps out of two by ten pine boards that stood eight feet tall and were fifteen feet by fifteen feet square. A single hinged trap door four feet square propped up by a two by four driven slightly into the ground served as a simple mechanism for capturing the pigs. The traps were pre-baited with livestock feed, tomatoes from the local commercial farms, and, occasionally, carrion (road killed raccoons or possums) with the trap door tied open for a couple weeks so the hogs would get used to the structures. Once the traps were set for captures, my brother and I were often sent to check on them.

The first capture of two yearling hogs proved entertaining as my father and Vick took turns roping the 75 pound pigs as though they were calves, tying them off to posts, jumping down into the trap to hogtie their rear feet first and then their front feet, and putting burlap bags over their heads to reduce their struggles. The hogs were dragged out through the trap door, thrown onto the bed of a pickup truck, and driven to their brand new sty. My brother and I happily took on the new chore of daily feedings. The unpleasant task of mucking out the sty also fell to us after a fence with a gate divided the sty in half, so the pigs could be enticed with food to gather in one half of the enclosure while we closed the gate. We cleaned the empty half and repeated the process to clean the opposite half. We made sure we never leaned over the fence when we poured feed into the troughs. After the hogs got over their initial fear of being near people, they would charge toward the fence in efforts to get at us for days as if they were defending territory. That charging behavior occurred most frequently when sows were captured along with two to a half dozen piglets. One 250 pound sow that had three piglets grunted and charged us every day for three months before she was finally slaughtered and sent to a butcher.

Pork chops, roasts, and sausage filled our freezer. Pork and beef dominated the dinner table because the chickens were only replaced every 18 months or so. We gathered eggs every day from the thirty chickens that were kept in a wire cage that was suspended from the barn rafters, but the complex process of slaughtering and plucking chickens took most of a day, a task both Vick and my father put off until their wives repeatedly complained about not having chicken as a meal alternative.

Small herds or drifts of pigs were common sights along the length US 98, US 19, and all the other rural roads in the 50’s and 60’s, and, because the state was much less developed, the feral pig population did not get the attention the animals get today.

Wild pigs have become a problem in Florida as hundreds of thousands roam the state and destroy pasture land, crops, and residential property. There’s an effort now to turn the pest into a profit. According to William M. Giuliano in “Wild Hogs in Florida: Ecology and Management,” “Wild hogs are now found in every county in Florida and in at least 35 states and Canadian provinces, including most of the Southeast. Florida’s wild hog population is second only to Texas’s; the state is estimated to have more than 500,000 wild hogs in a relatively stable population (there are from 1 to 2 million wild hogs in the southeastern United States). Some of the highest hog population densities in Florida can be found north and west of Lake Okeechobee in areas with large forested tracts, dense understory vegetation, and limited public access. Hog numbers tend to be lower in areas with intensive agriculture and urbanization, and little water.”  The  Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission contends “the wild pig (Sus scrofa), also called the wild hog, wild boar or feral pig, is not a Florida native…and prefers oak-cabbage palm hammocks, freshwater marshes and sloughs and pine flatwoods. Wild pigs can reach weights of more than 150 pounds and be 5-6 feet long. They usually travel in small family groups or alone.

Laura Reilly, argued in 2014: “One solution to Florida’s wild pig problem: Eat them.”  She put forth that “Anna Maria restaurateur Ed Chiles’ three moderately priced indoor-outdoor restaurants, Anna Maria’s Sandbar, Mar Vista on Longboat Key, and Anna Maria’ BeacHhouse, showcases Florida foods, which includes Braised Punta Gorda Wild Boar Au Jus with Beagle Bay Organic Sauerkraut. That is a pretty upscale treatment for meat coming from “descendants of pigs brought by Hernando de Soto in 1539.” She did address a question most restaurant patrons would ask: “But is this wild pork safe? Field dressing wild hogs puts hunters at risk of brucellosis infection, and then there are the specters of dangerous diseases such as trichinosis, pseudorabies and leptospirosis. According to D.J. Conner, who regulates animals coming in and out of the state for Florida’s Department of Agriculture, if it’s cooked thoroughly (the USDA says that means an internal temperature of 160), it poses no greater risk than commercial pork.”

From chapter 9, “The Barn,” of Growing Up Floridian:

Lessons in how steak, pork roasts, and fried chicken got to the table were taught in that barn, too. Every six months a steer was grain fed for a couple of months before he was butchered to serve to families. Wild hogs were as frequently trapped, fed, and slaughtered. The anatomy lessons offered during those very real life moments identified livers, hearts, stomachs, and intestines in three vivid dimensions. Every eighteen months the chickens were replaced after they were slaughtered and distributed to the ranch families. I was not quite prepared for the spectacle of bringing to life the adage of “running around like a chicken with its head cut off.” Even at eight years-old, I had heard the saying many times but did not realize such a behavior could happen. When Vick and my father set up a huge iron scalding pot over a fire in front of the barn one Saturday morning, I had just finished cleaning the chicken area and washing off the red wagon with the hose at the back of the barn. Both men had hatchets and oak stump chopping blocks set near the bubbling pot. They went into the chicken cages, brought out two chickens at a time, and chopped their heads off. Then, they tossed the headless bodies into the grass. The white unbalanced forms ran or stumbled around the area for ten to twenty seconds, sometimes going fifteen to twenty feet away from where they were tossed. The actions of the headless chickens were the strangest I had ever seen, and I was hesitant about eating chicken for some weeks afterwards. After all the chickens were dispatched, both men plunged the bodies into the scalding water, plucked the feathers, dressed the birds, and wrapped them in white freezer paper. I carried a box filled with white packages to my mother so she could place them in our freezer.

 

Brahma Fear

Even before the Manatee County school bus slowed to a stop in front of the dirt road leading over the railroad rail cattleguard at the entrance to the Quarter Circle A ranch on State Road 62, my brother, Smokey, and I looked out the opened windows and scanned the small four-acre pasture in front of the tree line for cattle. What we didn’t want to see were the Brahman cows.

The Colvin ranch of 10,000 acres was the home range of several hundred head of Florida scrub cattle and several breeds of purebred cattle that the Colvins bought at auctions in whatever parts of the country they happen to visit. A champion Angus Bull arrived from a Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo visit one day, got out of the cattle truck, and walked right into a barbed wire he had never encountered before, requiring a local veterinarian triage visit. A few Hereford cows brought in from Nebraska required veterinarian attention several times during their first few months in the Florida heat and humidity. However, the purebred Brahman herd of about 40 cows required the least amount of veterinarian care, but were rotated through different sections of pasture land to give the cattle the best grazing the ranch could afford them. When the rotation schedule brought the Brahmans into the small entrance field leading onto the ranch or the wider pasture area around the four houses and barn of the ranch headquarters, my brother and I had to devise strategies for dealing with the herd.

The cows with their calves were usually skittish, dashed into a close-packed herd a couple hundred feet away from anyone who approached on horseback or on a tractor, and turned to stare at the intruder until they determined whether or not danger really existed for their offspring. When two small boys coming home from school began walking down the 300 yards of dusty, dirt road that disappeared into the tree line harboring Gamble Creek, the cows looked up from grazing, sometimes snorted, and, most often, went right back to grazing. A few of the 1,200 pound cows with wide-eyed curious calves on either side of the road would raise heavy heads adorned with short, very pointed horns and stare. We would freeze in place. After the closest cow lowered her head to graze, we quietly crept forward again. This cow and boy dance usually worked until we came within the last 200 feet from the tree line; then, we ran as if our lives depended on the few seconds we needed to reach the safety of the trees.

The first time we encounter the herd on the way home, we had no strategy in place and spoke nervously about running all the way to the trees or just walking like the cattle were not even there. Our chatter must have irritated the cow closest to the road. She ran several strides forward, lowered her head, and swung pointed horns at our rear ends as we screeched and stumbled in our awkward school shoes toward the lone pine 75 yards from the road in the middle of the eastern half of the pasture. The cow could not have been serious about wanting to reach us, because she halted after those first few strides and watched us scramble behind the pine. The rest of the herd gathered on the western side of the pasture to watch us exit the open field by keeping the tree between us and the Brahmans, going all the way to the barbed wire fence on the eastern edge, and climbing under the fence into the Palmetto scrub on the other side. Our journey home took three times the usual duration as we navigated palmettos, watched for rattlesnakes, and twisted through the trees along the creek to get back to the road. Smokey and I talked about strategy on the way home and decided being quiet while walking slowly after taking off our shoes would be the best plan, agreeing that we ran much faster without shoes. We had quite a few more dances through the herd over the next few years and a few barefoot races to the trees when we heard an aggressive snort or strides coming in the grass toward us that, a couple of times, left school shoes lying in the dust.

When we heard Tex Ritter sing “Bad Brahma Bull” on the car radio a few times during those mid 1950’s, my brother and I agreed that we were happy never seeing any of the several Brahman bulls, a couple of them retired rodeo bulls, mixed in with the herd of cows. They were put together once or twice a year in outer pastures removed from the area of the ranch where we typically travelled on foot.

Years later in 1974, the lines from “Brahma Fear” on Jimmy Buffett’s album, Living And Dying In 3/4 Time, “I’d like to ride the rodeo/But I’ve got Brahma fear/So I’ll just stick to airplanes/Gently pop my ears,” reminded me of my childhood moments with Brahman cattle. I, too, thought about rodeo possibilities, but I figured pain from football injuries probably paled in ctomparison to that inflicted by bulls and broncs in a rodeo arena.

In 1977, Chris LaDoux’s album, Sing Me a Song, Mr. Rodeo Man, offered an upbeat version of “Bad Brahma Bull,” and led me to find that the song was originally written by cowboy poet Curley Fletcher in 1915 as the poem, “Strawberry Roan,” and transformed into a song by Fred Howard and Nat Vincent (The Happy Chappies).  Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Rex Allen and Buddy Essen, Marty Robbins, and the Sons of the Pioneers recorded versions of “Strawberry Roan.” Fletcher rewrote the bronc riding song into a parody as the bull riding song in 1942.

From the 5th chapter, “Cowboy Hat,” of Growing Up Floridian:

As we started to the barn, I noticed Vick was bow-legged, and his stride was an awkward mix between a slight limp and an exaggerated right leg extension.

“Why do you walk like that?”

“Son, if you had been thrown from as many horses and bulls as I have, you might have a hitch in your giddyup too. Too many rodeos. Too many eight second rides.”

He wore a silver belt buckle adorned with a cowboy on a bucking horse that read Saddle Bronc Champion 1942, one of many I saw over the years. I learned that Vick Blackstone was a well-respected rodeo performer when he was young and still had to ride once in a while in competitions despite being almost 50, an age when most riders had retired from all rodeo events. Vick did not talk much about himself to us, but we overheard conversations or his responses to questions about where he earned the championship belt buckle he wore on any given day. He was respected as a five-event cowboy, a competitor riding bulls, riding broncs bareback, riding broncs with a saddle, roping calves, and bulldogging. For twenty-five years, he won championships on the rodeo circuit across the country from when he was seventeen in 1930 until he was well into his forties. Once, a truck driver delivering feed to the ranch asked him about “that Largo rodeo when you won all five main events.”

 

Rodeo Romances and Norman Rockwell’s 1954 “Girl in the mirror” Saturday Evening Post cover…

My mother must have been inspired more than a bit by Ranch Romances, Thrilling Ranch Stories, and Rodeo Romances, pulp fiction magazines that began publication in 1924 and ran through 1971.  According to Chelsea Anderson, “Ranch Romances was only one of more than 180 western pulp magazines created between 1920 and 1950 , and only a small part of the nearly 10,000 issues published in the entire Western genre.” In 1945 at age twenty, my mother had seen thousands of pages of magazine art and plenty of examples of pinup art that captured an immense audience in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.  Although she appreciated western images the most, she still could see a little of herself in Ava Gardner and other iconic beauties of the day. Below is my mother opposite Ava Gardner on the beach.

Ava Gardner’s pinup pose competed with Coca Cola ads and western romance magazines as inspirational models. Of course, Outlaw, starring Jane Russell, hit the movie screens in 1943, my mother’s senior year in high school. At the time, Russell gave everyone a new perspective on the cowgirl look.  

 

 

 

The March 6, 1954 Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell, “The Girl in the Mirror” sent my mother looking through her photo album collection for a picture of herself taken in 1938.  The Post’s cover painting depicted Mary Whalen Leonard, Rockwell’s favorite model, contemplating a photo of Jane Russell.  According to a 2013 Saturday Evening Post article, Rockwell said, “I should not have added the photograph of the movie star,…the little girl is not wondering if she looks like the star but just trying to estimate her own charms.” Even though my mother was posing for the camera instead of contemplating her self-image in comparison to a magazine photo, the Rockwell painting and her own photograph connection clicked for her.

 

My mother’s 1954 pinup pose included her two sons.

From “Nighthawks,” the 3rd chapter of Growing Up Floridian:

If my brother joined me, we took turns playing a game of who could find a cloud formation that captured a person or a object on which we could agree. Abraham Lincoln appeared more often than any other person, although Santa Claus was a close second. Rabbits, cattle, and hippos wandered or ran through the clouds with a degree of regularity. In one instant, Smokey could not see my Statue of Liberty, and I could not see his locomotive, but we agreed that Bugs Bunny sat on a rock eating a carrot. If the horizon was filled with clouds, our imaginations could find substantial forms in seconds. On the rare evenings when our mother sat with us, we had to explain in detail which part of which cloud structure depicted what we saw, and, then, she would hesitantly agree. She contended she could see pictures or representations in the clouds as quickly as we did when she was young.

“My mind doesn’t work that way any more,” she complained.

“Why,” I questioned.

“I have so much to do that I don’t take the time to relax and smell the roses.”

“What roses?”

She gently laughed and explained, “That’s just an expression that means I’m caught up in washing clothes, fixing lunches, cleaning the house, and getting ready for work to such an extent that I’m not enjoying simple moments like this.”

 

Comments and feedback welcomed! Please!

Traveling the Skyway…for the first time.

The original Sunshine Skyway Bridge, opened in 1954, did away with the need for the Bee Line Ferry boats that transported people and cars from Pinellas County across Tampa Bay to Manatee or Sarasota County.  Jerry Blizin revisited the event in an article in the St. Petersburg Times published on October 20, 2009. The extra 50 miles the bridge saved travelers helped mitigate the distaste they had for both the $1.75 toll and the fear generated by the bridge’s height.

Smokey, my mother, and I traveled across the five year-old Sunshine Skyway Bridge in 1959 to visit my maternal grandmother in my mother’s 1948 Morris Minor, which was slightly more powerful than a Volkswagen Beetle. We were not sure the car could reach the 150 foot summit since we could barely keep up with a cormorant that matched the car’s 45 mph as we headed north on the low span. Neither my brother nor I had been anywhere near 150 feet off the ground before, so the trip unnerved us both, and we clutched the armrests as our heads swiveled in every direction. When a dolphin breached, a pelican dove, or a mullet jumped, we gasped and pointed. We were chattering monkeys when we recounted to Gram Barr our adventure of leaving the flat palmetto scrub of Manatee County and soaring to the top of the Skyway Bridge, a mere 36 miles away. The Pinellas County beach environment contrasted sharply with the backwoods Florida Cracker territory the Quarter Circle A ranch provided.

Years later, I found trips over the old bridge were peaceful and particularly beautiful under a bright moon.

A second span added in 1971 altered the simplistic beauty of the origin engineering marvel, and the shipping accident in 1980 that destroyed the southbound span ended the nostalgic romance the original Skyway engendered.

 

 

A recent newspaper article described the current efforts to hold a half marathon race over the new bridge on New Year’s Day, but there was no mention of opening ceremony run in which I participated on January 11, 1987.

 

From “Travels on State Road 62,” the 4th chapter of Growing Up Floridian:

On the rare days when my mother had to go to work early, she would drop my brother and me off at the elementary school. The seven-mile journey to the two-story school on Highway 301 was slow because State Road 62 did not have a legislative champion, and, thus, was nothing but miles of patches and potholes that would take a toll on even the most durable cars. My mother’s 1948 Morris Minor automobile, a simple little beetle-shaped beast, took the bumpy ride while emitting a groan every so often. SR 62 connected to 301 in Parrish, and we would be dropped off in front of the school so my mother could continue on to the hardware store in Palmetto where she work as a secretary. As we motored along, static-filled am radio stations during my first grade year played Elvis Presley’s “All Shook Up,” Debbie Reynold’s “Tammy, ” and my mother’s favorite, “Old Cape Cod,” by Patti Page, which she said reminded her of fun times on that Atlantic beach.

Cornbread: Yankee vs. Southern?

 

My mother made Yankee cornbread that was sweet, soft, and moist. When her bright yellow squares were coupled with Boston Baked Beans, grilled all-beef franks, sautéed green beans with mushrooms, fresh unpasteurized milk from our cow, and blackberry ice-cream for dessert, a Saturday night evening meal became a savory sensation.  I tasted southern cornbread at county picnics or at the homes of friends, but I did not enjoy those coarse, flat, unsweetened cornbreads the way I savored my mother’s recipe. I will admit that I have grown to enjoy just about any cornbread variation at this point in my life, but I do miss those Saturday night meals of my youth.

 

In Robert Moss’s online post, “The Real Reason Sugar Has No Place in Cornbread, ” he gives a very detailed explanation for the increased use of sugar in cornbread recipes, which, he contends, has to do with the evolution of corn grinding as stone mills began to be replaced with steel roller mills. However, famed pastry chef Simone Faure, disagrees in her discussion, “Battle of the Cornbreads: Northern vs. Southern Style,” in Feast Magazine.  She argues that sugar has always been an option in southern cornbread recipes. Until I did a little research, I had no idea such a complicated debated about how cornbread should be created existed.

From the 13th chapter, “Lulu, a milk cow,” of Growing Up Floridian

Whole, unpasteurized milk became a part of every meal in our house. We had to drink at least one big glass morning, noon, and night and were encouraged to drink more between meals. Such consumption kept the refrigerator space balanced with the eight or ten eggs we got from the chickens every day and the ripe tomatoes we were allowed to pick from the farms a couple miles down the road. A stand alone freezer in the large closet and storage space at the end of the carport held a wide assortment of beef cuts from a steer that was slaughtered on the ranch every six months. None of the ranch hands were skilled butchers, so they traded a portion of the carcass, after they skinned and cleaned the animal, to the local butcher if he would cut the steaks, roasts, loins, and ribs into shareable portions. A similar process filled the rest of the freezer with pork. Wild hogs were trapped and grain fed for two months. Then, they were slaughtered and taken to the same butcher, who produced boxes of sausage, and packages of pork chops, roasts, and loins in such quantity that we were never without solid home-grown meals.

 

1950’s Bicycle memories

 

My parents decided my brother and I could share a bicycle as Christmas present in 1957. They must have been enticed by a Sears catalog ad:

 

 

Fortunately, they were not frightened by bicycle safety manuals of the 50’s that vividly etched in the minds of readers the dangers of poor bike riding practices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From “Christmas Bicycle,” the 2nd chapter of Growing Up Floridian:

Gleaming in the morning’s first rays stood a brand new J. C. Higgins bicycle. White accents on the fenders offered sharp contrast to the fire engine red frame and the shiny black white-wall tires. A big kid’s bike. No training wheels. I realized I did not know where to start. I had never ridden a bike before. I thought about waking my brother, Smokey, but his sleeping late behavior on this Christmas morning was going to cost him this time. I was going to give the bike a whirl first.

Caressing the brown leather seat, I tried to figure the easiest way to guide the bike off the porch. Wheeling the metal pony in a tight arc, I brought the front tire to the edge of the steps with a black plastic handlebar grip in each hand. The front tire’s rolling bounce on the initial step started a momentum that a sixty pound body could not control. Black grease teeth marks descending along the left leg of my jeans testified to the dangers of taking on a ride that might be too big for me.

1954 Boston Garden Rodeo

                
Jock Mahoney, known only as the Range Rider in the 1951 to 1953 TV western Range Rider, was one of the celebrity attractions of the 1954 Boston Garden Rodeo. He appeared during the 11-day Boston rodeo with Dick Jones, who was his saddle pal in the 79 episodes of the Range Rider. Mahoney also played the lead in Yancy Derringer, the popular but short-lived western in 1958 – 59.

 

From the Harvard Crimson:
“Lest the West” by Edmund H. Harvey, October 23, 1954

A rodeo is something that has to be smelled to be believed. The World’s Championship Rodeo in Boston Garden…All the best broncs are there: Country Butter, Sling Shot, Pig Eye, Drunkard, and the best riders and the prettiest girls. Also, The Range Rider and his Saddle Pal…The Range Rider (who) wears blue suede shoes…after the calf-roping contest,…time for the Range Rider (Jack Mahoney) and his Saddle Pal (Dick West)…The Range Rider jumps on a horse, but he does it three ways under a spotlight. Saddle Pal is a stooge who tries to do all the things that Range rider does but just thumps against the horse’s side. After each mounting he looks around at the crowd, and shouts, “Well, howdya like the Cavalry split-the neck mount? Didya like it HUH?” Everybody yells and claps and the Ranger Rider mounts another way (which I forget what they call). This goes on for a while and the Range Rider and Saddle Pal stage a fight. Then, they ride around the arena and throw their hats to the people that have applauded the most. This is the feature attraction…

My mother – a cowgirl by desire

 

This past Mother’s Day led me to reminisce about my mother’s mention, years ago, of her adventure of riding in the opening parade of the 1954 Boston Garden World Championship Rodeo held between October 20th and October 31st. I went through some old photographs and found the purple and gold ribbon she wore that identified her as a Parade Guest when she carried one of the flags on horseback in the opening ceremonies. Pictures of her on horseback from her teenage years through early adulthood always captured her in her happiest moments.

From the 6th chapter of Growing Up Floridian,“Faye Blackstone”:

Faye, who enjoyed an audience, described how she and Vick met when they were both rodeo performers, and a picture of them getting married on horseback in 1937 was evidence she pointed out to back up her story. She told us that she started riding and trying to perform tricks when she was younger than we were. A few pictures of her as a young girl getting progressively older climbed up the wall near their bedroom door. One wall of the living room was divided in half by pictures of Vick riding bulls, roping calves, bull dogging steers, and riding broncs with a saddle and without, while the other half held pictures of Faye barrel racing, standing on a horse at a full run, hanging off the side of her horse almost touching the ground, and bouncing off the ground into the air about to remount as a horse ran through a rodeo arena. Others pictures captured Faye riding in colorful opening parades of rodeos in Madison Square Garden, Boston Garden, the Cow Palace in San Francisco, and the Frontier Days Rodeo in Cheyenne.

“My mother rode in a rodeo parade in Boston Garden once,” I proffered.

Faye looked up from pouring glasses of milk, tucked a blonde curl behind her ear, and agreed, “I know. Your mother and I have talked about those days a few times. She was very pretty back then and is still a good lookin’ woman who can sit a horse well.”

Indiantown, 1956

         My brother and I embarked on our careers as bandits when we arrived in Indiantown. With our toy guns, Mexicali hats, and inspiration from the Cisco Kid (Duncan Renaldo) and Pancho (Leo Carrillo), we raced through the palmetto scrub looking for wrongs to right.

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