When I read The Three Faces of Eve, and Sybil, as a teenager, and discovered that other people had multiple personalities, I was elated. I wanted one. Not one brought on by dismal circumstance, something I knew nothing about, but one having, if possible, as much fun as I was - a double with a difference.
The secret, I discovered, was a rule: When you put on the cowboy clothes, you are a cowboy, and you stay a cowboy until the clothes come off. I was well prepared to have a cowboy persona - my dad had a herd of cattle, polled Herfords, and I had done time as I voluntary were-stock dog since I was a kid. I liked to run, and I considered myself savvy with animals, cows included. I like cows. "A cowboy is a boy who herds the cows." And I had a horse.
At 16 I got a car, mostly because I thought you were supposed to. If you've been paying attention, gentle readers, you can probably guess what it was- a gremlin. I drove it for the period of my learner's permit and when that ran out I traded it for a horse. I liked walking better.
The horse was beautiful. A palamino stallion with a mischevious personality. We were on each other's wavelength, as they say.
The stories concerning that horse are worth their own blog, for now what matters is that I knew how to ride.
My friend Polly found the boots, fairly standard decorative cowboy boots. They had some reptile skin on them, from an alligator I think. I found the shirt in a used & vintage clothing store called "The Attic" - H bar C ranchwear white antique rayon with white crown stripes, pearl snaps, and tiny black indian mountain embroidery where piping usual is. Jeans and a hat - that did it.
There were some internal rules too; the Cowboy Dan was nicer than me, always; more polite, more laid back, happy go lucky, slower talking. He talked less and sang more. My friends thought he was a hoot. No one ever tried to undercut his identity by noticing it was a performance, instead everyone played along because he was so pleasant and amusing to watch. Free theater.
It recently came to my attention that he painted. If I had known that I had forgotten about it. Even looking at the two existent paintings reveals nothing of their history to me. I can see that they were done from photographs, but the drawings are stylized and not bad. There's something oddly Oriental about the bronc rider, but that could be because it is black ink and brush on paper. I think the sleeping cowboy is from National Geographic. They are signed, in cursive, Cowboy Dan 1978, so I, he, we, were 19 at the time.
Cowboy Dan did not appear much in the 80s & 90s ~ then unexpectedly reappeared and recorded a CD of campfire-ish songs. The main problem was that the boots sort-of came apart. Alligator skin doesn't really hold up under real cowboy usage. There was a brief Cyber-Cowboy Dan, just long enough for him to fall for a Texas rodeo champ, but without boots it wasn't the same.
I found a pair of boots in Portland, at an old "outdoor clothing" store. They didn't have the shirt, and the boots are plain black with square toes, not exactly cowboy boots in the standard sense, but workable boots that could be used for herding cows. They do have some transformative power. Now if I can only find a shirt. The white one is coming apart at the seams.
I'm really having a painting block these days, since January - that's 6 months & that's 5 months and a week longer than I've ever known. My friends assure me that it will pass, but it isn't passed as of now. On the other hand I've always felt that any medium, even blogging, is just as likely to spur creativity as another. So it's alright. I don't think that I CAN paint right now, but I'm beginning to wonder if maybe Cowboy Dan can. Probably - he doesn't overthink this stuff.