Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

Memoir Monday: “Me, Dale and Buttermilk” by Drew Scott

Every fall a group of Houston businessmen host the Houston Live Stock Show and Rodeo. The entertainment over the years has ranged from Gene Autry to Elvis Presley, Mary Chapin Carpenter to Garth Brooks. They came, they sang, they left with their money, never to give their stay in Houston a second thought. Perhaps 1952 was a different story.

In 1952, the headline attraction was Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. I was five years old, and Roy Rogers was my idol. I had RR chaps, cap gun, boots, hat and, well, you get the picture. I sang “Happy Trails to You” all the time, even in the conservative presence of our Episcopal Minister W. Peter Nye, a tall skinny man with a long neck and bald head who cared not at all for children in general or their precocious behavior. He did love to come to our house on Sunday afternoon, not for the visitation of flock, but for the strong martinis my Father made. Happy Trails to you!

Back to Roy and Dale. My Grandmother Mumum bought tickets to the Rodeo and kept the performance a surprise until a week or so before the event. She left a flyer for the Rodeo announcing Roy and Dale’s appearance on my Mother’s dining table. She knew I was always searching for food, and the table was the first place I looked. I spotted the flyer and ran into the kitchen pretending to be Roy astride Trigger. Was I excited? Yep! My Father explained Roy and Dale were appearing at the Rodeo and Mumum had tickets for her and me to go. The event was five days away. I barely slept.

The morning I was to see my idols in the flesh, I woke up early and put on every article of cowboy duds I possessed. I was ready.

Because Mumum loved to shop and dine in Houston, she knew her way over the thirty miles from her home in Goose Creek to the towers of downtown Houston with her eyes closed. She parked her 1950 Plymouth Deluxe sedan in the Houston Coliseum parking lot, and we walked the short distance to the arena. I still remember entering the Coliseum and seeing the caverness floor of the arena covered in sand. And it smelled a little funny, but I did not care the least. It was not long before the fun began when the horses and riders of the Harris County Mounted Posse galloped around the arena. The riders held large flags and the sand was flying.

The first event was bull riding, enjoyable enough, but I wanted Roy and Dale. Mumum knew I was not at all present, so she hailed a vendor to joggle my attention with a hot dog and a huge soda. The hot dog went quickly. The soda took a little longer until the suction sound reverberated on the bottom of the cup.

I returned to my seat just in time to see the spotlight focus on the center of the arena. As the opening lines of a song I did not recognize rang out, they appeared. Roy on Trigger and Dale on Buttermilk. I was on the verge of delirium tremens and high on sugar. I don’t remember much of the performance, but I do remember what followed.

Roy and Dale started riding against the wall of the arena shaking hands with all the little Buckaroos. I was just a few rows from the wall, so I positioned myself perfectly to be seen and touched by my Stars. Slowly they made their way around the arena, Dale in front on Buttermilk and Roy following on Trigger. When the procession was half-way around the arena and just feet from me, I reached out my hand as far as I could. I was ready. I was going to touch THEM! They were right in front of me when Buttermilk brushed my hand with her nose and looked straight at me! I was beside myself. And then, for reasons better known by my five year old self, I responded by poking my index finger straight into Buttermilk’s right nostril.

All hell broke loose. Roy and Dale shouted. The horses whinnied. The Duo departed.

As a record played “Happy Trails,” they rode to the center of the arena and rode out of my life forever. But that was not the end of it. Next came the collective moans of kids at the rail waiting to be touched by the Stars. “What did you do? You made them leave!” they cried and pointed to me.

I commenced my walk of shame back to my seat. Mumum had not seen what happened, but a man said to her gesturing to me, “Did you see what the kid did to that horse?” I was numb. Mumum knew what we needed to do. We promptly exited the arena

That ended my rodeo experience, but not my devotion to Roy and Dale.  Puberty took care of that.

©2014 Drew Scott 

Drew Scott was raised in Goose Creek, Texas. He and his wife Jane Scott live in Santa Fe with their two poodles. “With each story, I allow myself to visit the people and places who helped make me the man I am today at age sixty-seven,” says Drew. “Pretty cool stuff!”

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