A Little Cowboy in All of Us
It seemed like everyone had some tiny connection to our theme of cowboys and rodeos, boots and hats. With my Community Center group we played a sweet version of Home on the Range that had a good amount of mood setting instrumental as well as just enough singing to inspire the group to join in. The combination seemed to set the mood for sharing and imagining. First we heard stories. "Back in Michigan, when I was a young girl, I used to ride my horse to deliver newspapers!" "Well, I never rode a horse, but we had mules. In fact our mules would pull our wagon to the Sugar Mill so we could shop. We carried our our groceries back in the wagon!"
At one point I softened the music and dimmed the lights and we imagined sitting around a campfire at night after a long day on the range. "What would we do? What would we think about?" There was no rush for answers. We let the music set the scene. "I'll bet we'd be thinking about home." Said one voice. This group, so known for their laughter and loud playful voices, spoke softly. "We might look at the stars." "We might sing." And we did sing along for a while, with a recording of Ed Littlefield Jr.
For just a sample of the music that inspired us... http://www.amazon.com/Ed-Littlefield-Jr./e/B000APSY12
A Yodeling Surprise
Once again, a recording of music brought about a nice surprise. With one of my senior groups, we joked about "wantin' us a cowboy" since no men had joined us that day. I played a recording of Patti Page singing about being a cowboy's sweetheart. This song with it's twang-y sound just made me chuckle. I told them to get ready for some yodeling because it was coming right up. Then what do you know... it turns out we had a real yodeler in our group. Margaret was the best! We turned off our music and let her go at it. When she finished, the whole group applauded and whooped. Margaret grinned and sang us another!
.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4K4hX8GIC3E (Patti's song)
Rodeo and Horseback Memories
My last group talked about rodeos, since the Houston rodeo was going on at the time. While we chatted, we looked over a collection of spurs, horseshoes and a miniature leather saddle. One woman who was joining our group for the first time laughed about the shape of the saddle and wondered if it would work on a camel. "They had camels in Texas, you know." We talked about that part of Texas history and then she shared about growing up outside of Dallas. She remembered riding horses on the ranch...and the dust. "Especially during the dustbowl, when dust got through every crack in every window and door."
We have a number of folks from the northeast in our group, so none of them had stories about ranches and dustbowls. But they did have memories of rodeos. It always surprises me to hear Ken and Eunice and Robert swapping stories of growing up in NYC and on this day, they had rodeo memories in common... from Madison Square Gardens!
What did I learn?
As I said, each of us had a little something to share, whether recalling western movies or playing cowboys as kids. It made me wonder about kids today. I wish I had taken my theme to the Shelter this week so I could find out if kids still play cowboy, at all. They might...at least around Houston Rodeo time.
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.