by Dee Strickland Johnson (“Buckshot Dot”)
I was raised with seven brothers
near a place called Concho Lake.
There was Jamie, Jeff, and Joseph,
Sam and Seth and Sid and Jake.
So I grew up rough and tumble,
and I made my share of noise,
Romped the dogs and roped the horses.
I was rowdy as the boys!
Skinny tomboy, seven brothers,
and assorted brothers’ friends
On our little cattle ponies,
raced to hell and back again.
We’d roar down the dry arroyas;
then we’d all come tearing back,
There was Buzz and Paul and Donnie
and that rascal Charlie Black.
But one Spring, as I grew older,
Mama firmly told me, “No!”
And when the boys went out on roundup—
Mama said I couldn’t go.
Then she tried to teach me cooking,
how to sew, and keep the place;
But my heart was roping yearlings,
and I longed to barrel race.
Once she washed my hair in soap weed;
while it still hung limp and damp,
She stuck that rusty curling iron
down the chimney of the lamp.
“Sister,” she said, holding up a gingham
dress that she had sewed,
“Andy’s comin’! Now you wear this,
so’s your legs won’t look so bowed.”
Andy was the new young foreman
of the ranch off to our west,
And of all my brothers’ cronies,
Mama showed she liked him best.
O, she was proud that she had made me
look like something of a girl,
Got me out of faded Levis,
forced my stubborn hair to curl.
Well, it wasn’t long thereafter
every time that Andy’d call,
And the boys were pitching horseshoes,
Andy’d linger in the hall.
So he came to be my suitor,
brought me candy, flowers and such,
And the night he brought me perfume,
Well, I didn’t mind too much.
Andy’d come ‘most every evening;
he was courteous and kind,
And it wasn’t any secret
what the cowboy had in mind.
Every Friday we’d go dancing,
laughing clear to town and back.
Andy made me feel a lady—
so I married Charlie Black!
© 1994, Dee Strickland Johnson, from her book, Cowman’s Wife, used with permission
Poet, writer, and musician Dee Strickland Johnson, known as “Buckshot Dot,” delights audiences across the West.
Buckshot Dot told us that some of the poem was based on her own life, including the facts that when they lived on the Hualapai that reservation, her mother did wash her hair in soap weed (agave root) and did curl her hair with a curling iron she heated by placing down the chimney of the kerosene lamp.
She also told us that the poem itself was inspired by another infamous tomboy: the late poet, cowboy, and Cowgirl Hall of Fame honoree Georgie Sicking. Buckshot Dot says that at a gathering, Georgie, ” …mentioned on stage that she grew up a tomboy. I was waiting in the wings and right then and there I decided to write that poem…”
This image is a childhood photo of California poet, writer, horsewoman, and tomboy Janice Gilbertson. She shared it in a 2007 Picture the West at CowboyPoetry.com.
Janice is recovering from the successful cancer surgery that she had yesterday. Why not send her good wishes at PO Box 350, King City, CA 93930.
Janice has published books of her poetry and two novels, including Summer of ’58, and the newest, The Canyon House. A reviewer wrote that her writing was reminiscent of “Steinbeck or Harper Lee.”
The title poem of one her poetry collections, Sometime in the Lucias, was a Western Writers of America, Inc. Spur Award finalist. Find some of her poetry and more about her at CowboyPoetry.com and at her site, janicegilbertsonwriter.com.
(You can share this poem and photo with this post, but please request permission for any other uses.)