Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Want To Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart

I hated kindergarten. I was one of the unfortunate children assigned to the "Mustard Door". The mustard and ketchup doors were the clever idea of a well meaning teacher to help stupid five year olds remember where to go after their parents abandoned them in the school parking lot. A stupid idea, because all five year olds know that ketchup is superior to mustard. If you are in the mustard class you must be retarded or something. Mustard is lame.

Mrs. Falen was my kindergarten teacher. She did not like me any better than I liked her. The first day I arrived at school (After Christmas break I was a transfer student. Lucky Mrs. Falen) I concocted a plan to convince my teacher and classmates I was deaf. I wanted them to leave me the hell alone. I smuggled my transistor radio in my coat pocket. I plugged in the earphone to simulate a hearing aid and responded only in sign language. This worked for about an hour until Mrs. F confirmed that I was not a “special needs” child and was, in fact, in the correct classroom. Bad news for both of us.

Every morning Big Judes (My Mom) would drag me kicking and screaming up the stairs of Crestview Elementary School, through the mustard door, to Kindergarten hell. She tried to abandon me in the parking lot once with strict orders to follow the other sheep to my classroom. When her big white Plymouth was out of sight, I started the two-mile walk home. I was found and returned to school. Big Judes never did that again. I would guess it is uncomfortable to explain to school administrators why your child called them "varmints" and demanded to be returned to "Granny's place in Dodge City before the last stage".

Most days I refused to participate in anything. No sing-a-longs at the piano. No dry graham crackers and apple juice. No tempera paint. Didn't these people understand I was not supposed to be here? After weeks of boring mornings with the mustard kids, Mrs. Falen announced that we were all going to make “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up” posters for the upcoming school open house. Finally! A project I could relate to. I knew exactly what I wanted to be! A Cowboy.

My Old Granny would smear my face with Vaseline and rub coffee grounds on my cheeks for whiskers. I rode the range of my neighborhood with my chrome plated six shooters and jangling spurs. I had a stick horse named Ruth (After Festus’s mule on Gunsmoke). I bushwhacked girls on the sidewalk playing hopscotch. I let a whole pen of rabbits loose at the neighbor’s house so Ruth and I could practice roping and riding. The cowboy life was the life for me.

I created a stunning illustration of Ruth and me robbing a bank. (Did I mention I did not aspire to be the cowboy with a white hat?). I wrote my name in purple crayon. I could not wait to show my parents my masterpiece. They would be so proud.

When Mrs. Falen saw my poster, she looked concerned. She called me to her desk. “Tobi, please tell me about your poster. What do you want to be when you grow up?” I looked at her with concern. What was this lady's problem? “A Cowboy” I replied.

Mrs. F: “Tobi, you are a girl.”
T: (Blank stare)
Mrs. F: “Girls cannot be Cowboys. Girls can be Nurses, or Teachers. Or, Mommies. Don’t you think it would be nice to be a Mommy? Why don’t you look at what the other girls are drawing and give it another try? How does that sound?”

I did “give it another try.” I decided that if I could not be a cowboy I would be Miss Kitty at the Long Branch Saloon. Miss Kitty was a girl. Right?

If I could not be a cowboy, then I would be a childless whisky-drinking prostitute. I would dye my hair red and rouge my cheeks. I would have a secret affair with a cowboy for twenty years without benefit of marriage. Take that Mrs. Falen.

Anonymous said...

Love the story...brought back many memories of the kindergarten. I was in the ketchup class...mustard head!

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

I totally wanted to be Miss Kitty when I was little and I didn't even know she was a prostitute.

Although the name should have been a dead give-away.

Old House Junkie said...

Tobi, I'm likely the only reader of your post to be in tears right now. Thanks for including that you tube link. Not for the pics, but for the song. My mom loved Patsy Montana and used to sing that song a LOT! Once your mom is gone, lots of little things that were kind of annoying at the time can come to be very special to you.

That being said, Miss Kitty was a role model for me, also. She didn't have to cook, clean or do any housewifely chores, she got out of bed when she felt like it, she supervised a gaggle of good looking women, she had the cutest clothes, and Matt always looked at her in that special way. When I went up to the pasture to play cowboy (alone as usual) I always pretended to be Miss Kitty. Who knew there was sex involved?!? OHJ

Bluestreak said...

i love this story, because you imagine a mini-adult who is back in kindergarden with an adult mind intact.

Sounds a little traumatic. But childhoood is a kick in the ass.

Cindy said...

Tobi - I am laughing out loud at work!!! That was too funny.

Oh yeah - the K&M doors??? Even our son knows about them - YCB has told us the story of those doors OVER AND OVER again. Everytime we are within a 3 block radius of the school I hear about them. I don't think he was near as traumatized as you were by the significance of the color of the doors. Besides the fact that he probably thinks about a hamburger or hotdog when he thinks about the doors. GO FIGURE!

Get a long little dawgy!!

*insert sunset photo here*


Tobi said...

BFSK S.- Still? You rub it in?!?
Mustard Head?? Where is the love??

Jenny- Oh my God, Miss. Kitty? It never occured to me. I mean, I knew she was a tramp but...

OHJ- I bet she was doing it with Sam the bartender. Why else would he wash all those dishes? So sweet about your Mom.

BS- I was lucky to be born before the advent of Ritalin.

Cindy- Are the doors still M&K? MCB is probably not traumatized because he was a ketchup kid. They all downplay the horror. Sunset photo--Hilarious!

karey m. said...

this is my favorite thing i've read all day. longer than that, even.

must kirtsy. asap. xoxo.

Tobi said...

Karey- Thank you, That means a lot coming from you. You're the best.

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