Planning my trip to Fort Worth to see the world premiere of Bruce Wood's ballet, "Dust, Texas," I realized I could squeeze in a visit to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. The museum has a very open definition of "cowgirl" as a spirit of courage, self-reliance, trail-blazing, connection to the land of the American West, and of what my co-worker calls the attitude of "Git 'er done!" Cowgirls include Dale Evans, Patsy Cline, Georgia O'Keeffe, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Sandra Day O'Connor, Annie Oakley, horsewomen, trick riders, stunt riders, singers, photographers, and real branding iron ranchwomen.
I've logged countless hours in the dusty saddle myself--approximately eight, but it seemed like many more, what with the horse flies. I've worn saddle shoes with anklets if that counts. Moreover, I have a deep and abiding love of scruffy plains and canyons, an interest in the history of the American Frontier, and enormous respect for the influence Laura Ingalls Wilder has had on generations of American children, male and female. I've got a little bit of the self-reliant "Git 'er done" attitude when it comes to shower tile repairs and uncooperative Buick headlights. I also had a fringed leather shoulder purse in about 1970. Therefore, I am proclaiming myself a cowgirl.
Of course, the Cowgirl museum has a gift shop. Of course I had to scope it out. One never knows where the idea for an art class project is hiding. That's when I was blind-sided by the deluxe metal hand weaving loom and hook set! Holy moly, it's a potholder loom!
Weaving potholders got me through some rough patches in the Sixties. I bought my metal loom at Fisher's House of Toys in McCook, Nebraska for under a dollar on a hot dry weekend. Bruce Wood may have his "Dust, Texas," and James McMurtry, Jr. has "Levelland," but McCook, Nebraska is the dustiest place on my personal Earth.
Looper doopers were the weaving loops for making potholders, or "hot pads" as we called them. Cotton loopers were bulky and dull in color, like tops cut off of socks. Nylon looper doopers were available at the Ben Franklin on Cotner Boulevard in Lincoln, with smoother weaving action and brighter colors for the mod Sixties sensibilities. My maternal grandmother gave me a crochet hook, and taught me how to bind off the loop ends to finish the hot pads I wove. That was the finest moment of our relationship. The crochet hook is broken, but it is still in my embroidery basket.
I produced many hot pads in my most productive golden looper dooper years. To the best of my recollection, I never sold my wares, but gave them as gifts to everyone I knew for Christmas and birthdays. Two other women in the museum gift shop recounted their experiences as potholder artisans/door-to-door salespersons on dusty roads in Texas and Oklahoma. Peddling hot pads for two bits were their entries into the world of entrepreneurship. One recalled telling her mother that she couldn't do her homework because she "had so many orders to fill!" A third woman told sad tales of loom frustration and potholder envy in her Kansas childhood. We were all laughing and experiencing hot pad catharsis at the hot flash phase of our lives.
Levelland - James McMurtry, Jr. - 1995
Flatter than a tabletop
Makes you wonder why they stopped here
Wagon must have lost a wheel or they lacked ambition one
On the great migration west
Separated from the rest
Though they might have tried their best
They never caught the sun
So they sunk some roots down in the dirt
To keep from blowin' off the earth
Built a town around here
And when the dust had all but cleared
They called it Levelland, the pride of man
Granddad grew the dryland wheat
Stood on his own two feet
His mind got incomplete and they put in the home
Daddy's cotton grows so high
Sucks the water table dry
Rolling sprinklers circle round
Bleedin' it to the bone
And I won't be here when it comes a day
It all dries up and blows away
I'd hang around just to see
But they never had much use for me in Levelland
They don't understand me out in Levelland
And I watch those jet trails carving up that big blue sky
Coast to coasters watch 'em go
And I never would blame 'em one damn bit
If they never looked down on this
Not much here they'd wanna know
Far as you can point your hand
Nothin' but Levelland
Mama used to roll her hair
Back before the central air
We'd sit outside and watch the stars at night
She'd tell me to make a wish
I'd wish we both could fly
Don't think she's seen the sky
Since we got the satellite dish and
I can hear the marching band
Doin' the best they can
They're playing "Smoke on the Water", "Joy to the World"
I've paid off all my debts
Got some change left over yet and I'm
Gettin' on a whisper jet
I'm gonna fly as far as I can get from
Levelland, doin' the best I can
Out in Levelland - imagine that