November 13th, 2013
By WJ St.Germain
I recently watched an episode of High Chaparral (on DVD!) where the townsfolk were preparing for Thanksgiving. The holiday was a day or two away and only then was the decorating being done. I thought, boy have times changed.
I don’t know how things work where you live but around here, I am seeing lines blurring all over the place. Late in August, the local department stores started putting up their Christmas trees. The shoppers sure don’t put their decorations up that early (if you ignore my eccentric neighbor whose kangaroo pulled Santa sleigh is on display 365 days a year).
Nearby, the dreaded Halloween display was also coming to life. Given that in the 25 years I have lived here, only one child has ever knocked at my door, I wonder why stores continue trying to force this holiday on Aussies. Since I had nothing to give said child, I offered her a bunch of roses from my garden (she complimented them). The little girl looked positively scandalized, informing me that, – in case I didn’t know – ‘You’re meant to give lollies’. Reluctantly, she took them. Her compliments were clearly an attempt to increase her candy haul because I found them in the hedge the next morning.
It was this blurring of the lines that led me to meet a charming little cowboy at the store so I thought I’d tell you about him. While browsing through summer clothes designed for tiny women who have clearly never had children, I noticed a beautiful little boy of about five standing in a trolley looking at the Christmas/Halloween decorations. He had big brown eyes with eyelashes women would kill for, brown hair and gorgeous little white teeth. He was dressed like a cowboy, complete with plastic pistol in holster which, given today’s obsession with not letting children have any fun that might be considered offensive to others, surprised me.
His mother was busy holding the tiny clothes up against her in front of a mirror. As she was present, I asked the child if he had a favorite cowboy.
‘All cowboys’ was the reply.
Then to my surprise and horror, his mother asked if he wanted to wait there (talking to a stranger!) or outside the nearby change rooms. He opted to stay with the decorations while she disappeared with what looked like half the stock from lady’s wear. I noticed she took her handbag with her yet the precious child was left unattended. I decided to hang around to be sure he was safe.
The decorations for both holidays were nearby and the trees were at the perfect height for the boy to reach. He started decorating one. Selecting several jack-o-lanterns, he hung them on the lower branches.
I pointed to some nearby baubles and said, ‘You’re meant to hang those. Do you want me to get you some?’
He shook his head. ‘They don’t have faces, these do.’
So onto the tree went the smiling pumpkins. I told him I loved his outfit.
‘When I grow up I’m going to be a cowboy,’ he informed me. ‘You can garn’tee that.’
‘Really? Where will you live?’ (As in the USA or here?)
He looked puzzled. ‘On a ranch of course. With heaps of cows. Daddy said cows are expensive so I will only buy six to start. All girls so I can get milk from them when they aren’t having babies. Boys don’t give milk, you know.’
‘But you need at least one boy cow to have babies.’
He considered the comment while hanging a few witches on the tree.
‘Then I’ll get six of those instead.’
He had much to learn about raising beef but it wasn’t my place to explain the flaw in his plan.
‘I’m going to learn to wrangle, too. You can garn’tee that.’
I don’t know if he’d seen High Chaparral but his repeated use of the word ‘garn’tee’ suggested he tuned in to the daily episodes of Gunsmoke and was a fan of Festus Hagen.
I handed him an angel but he shook his head and held up another witch. ‘These are better.’
‘Why? Angels are prettier.’
‘Then why are you hanging witches on the tree?’
The budding display designer paused. ‘Because witches are smarter about flying.’
He put a howling ghost down and explained.
‘Witches can put their brooms away when they’re finished. Angels are stuck carrying their wings everywhere. I reckon they’re pretty heavy and you can garn’tee they weigh heaps when they come out of the shower.’ He leaned over and whispered. ‘They can’t take them off you know.’
I couldn’t resist. ‘Have you ever seen an angel in the shower? They might prefer baths.’
He rolled his eyes. ‘The wings are too big to fit in a bath. Even you should know that.’
‘Don’t you have any shopping to do?’ he asked, considering whether to select a spider or another ghost.
‘I thought I’d hang around until you mother returns. Just to make sure you’re safe.’
He shrugged. ‘You’ll be hanging around for a while. She’ll try on a million things that won’t fit then come back really cranky, hang them all up on a rack where they don’t belong and say, ‘Here we go, back to the fat lady section.’
‘Does she leave you alone this way often?’ I asked.
‘Only when she tries on clothes that don’t fit. I’m usually left in the trolley outside the change rooms where the lady at the desk can see me. This is better. There’s nothing to look at over there except socks and panties. Socks are boring and ladies panties are gross.’
‘Does she often try on clothes that don’t fit?’
He selected a ghost.
‘Every time we come here. I think she keeps hoping that one day they will. When I asked her why she didn’t just go to the fat lady section first, she got mad. Daddy said never to say fat lady and mummy at the same time so now I just wait. I’ll scream if anyone tries to steal me.’ He gave me a warning look. ‘I’ll do it if you try, too. And I’ll bite you if you touch me.’
‘I don’t intend to steal or touch you,’ I said, aghast at the suggestion.
‘Good, because you seem like a nice old lady.’
He carefully hung the howling ghost onto a branch then pointed to the white tree nearby. ‘They need to make black ghosts so that people who buy white trees can hang ghosts on them.’
‘You don’t quite get how these holidays work, do you son?’ I asked, still recovering from the threat of being bitten.
He shrugged. ‘Sort of. I hang cowboys on our tree.’
‘You have cowboy decorations?’ I handed him the cottony cobwebs since I knew a garland was clearly out of the question for this child.
He nodded. ‘I’ve got billions of them. Daddy buys me big bags of them. My brother gets army men but I prefer horses and cowboys. When you take the cowboys off the horses their legs have a big gap in them so they can’t stand up properly but they hang on trees okay.’
He giggled, flashing his little white pearls. ‘I put nooses around their necks.’
‘Do you know what a noose is?’ he asked.
I nodded. ‘Doesn’t it seem a bit creepy having men hanging on your tree?’
‘It doesn’t hurt them.’
‘Are you sure?’
Convinced he was speaking to someone of limited intelligence he slowly said, ‘They’re made of plastic.’
Satisfied he’d done all he could within his reach, the patient child took a small step back to admire his work.
‘I reckon every Christmas tree should have cowboy stuff on it?’
I nodded. ‘Horses would look pretty.’
‘I hang them, too.’
‘Using a noose?’
He shook his head. ‘If they aren’t hanging by a cowboy I stick branches between their legs.’
‘You could do that with the bowlegged cowboys, you know. That way they don’t have to hang.’
‘I tried that but mummy thought it looked disgusting so I hang them.’
I thought about it. Mummy had a point.
‘You should hang something cowboyish on your tree this year.’
‘Okay I will.’
Finally, Mummy returned looking extremely agitated. Jamming everything onto a nearby rack, the child gave me a knowing look.
‘It’s off to the fat lady section, AGAIN!’ she grumbled.
Oblivious to me, she hurled her handbag into the trolley with her son and they left at an alarming speed.
With a wave he called out, ‘Don’t forget!’
I wonder what my family will think when they see a few horses on our tree this year. I know the patient little cowboy would like that. In fact, I can garn’tee it.