“Those girls really work that hard?”
“It’s hard work living in the country huh?”
“Sometimes. Depends if you have the back bone for it, I suppose. But if you love it, it’s worth it.”
E and I have strange conversations (relatively) since we’ve moved and she’s seen me more immersed in my element. Before we moved she’d talked about living in the country the way she’d been sold it, the dime store cowboy citified fantasy version, a version I tried to explain to her wasn’t even remotely correct but in spite all my efforts there was a certain shock value for her in seeing the reality of it. The irony is since I know if I yell loud enough someone would hear it, I don’t especially consider where we live that far out in the country, but I’ll explain that level of backwoods to her more explicitly when she gets past the awe of rural. For now with the amount of in and out of the city we have to do where we are is perfect and it gives she and Josh the opportunity to dip their toes in the water and be sure they’re ready before agreeing to go to the compound I’ve been planning since I was a girl.
Overall though, E’s taken to it and loves it, working hard and playing harder in the fresh air, helping with the gardens, learning the names of plants and sounds of animals and what to steer clear of, even getting to pet and help me release a small snake I caught and held for her, for which I am apparently the coolest of the cool. And since she’s absolutely fascinated with country living, I’ve wanted to take her to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum for a dose of history and reality through art and craftsmanship. With the current exhibit featuring women of the west, it was too perfect to miss. The employees watched us with humored curiosity, her in her pink cowboy hat questioning the women in the paintings, what they were doing, what they were wearing, why this and why that, and us in boots and tattoos explaining the workaday world of farm and western women, drawing comparisons between their everyday and women in my family E knows who do or have done the same work, and here and there interjecting explanations of art theory and basic art critique skills for the budding artist side of her world.
The exhibit, Madonnas of the West, is beautifully curated with prominent examples of every side of the western woman maiden/mother/crone trinity as well as a handful of modern representations of the historical western woman and worth the trip if you can catch the show before it changes. If not, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is nonetheless impressive for it’s broadness of scope and amount of display. We were there until close, hours longer than we’d intended of wandering and reading and we still failed to see it all. The exhibit of rodeo history, the displays of old west in Hollywood, and weapons and equipment from military life in the territorial west were fascinating and the sections of Native American craftwork, artistry, and beadwork were amazing.
Not surprisingly though, I spent the first thirty minutes we were there in the entry gallery where they have a selection of Ansel Adams’ work displayed. His meticulous framing, lighting, and technical skill absolutely floor me, every time. And then of course there were the sections for Glenn Ford and John Wayne including an absolutely drool worthy selection of John Wayne’s guns and a collection of kachinas gifted to him. Another hour or so must’ve gone to the Remington’s and a small display of Dorothea Lange’s work I hadn’t expected, both of which I was glad for Josh to see in person, as although there are prints of two of my favorite Remington’s hanging in our house, his work, both sculpture and paint, is best appreciated in person when the tiniest bronze details for accuracy and the nuances of evening light he captured can be seen in their full glory. E was more impressed with Lange or being an emotionally intuitive child simply enjoyed discussing what those women in the photos were thinking about. And, in fairness, we equally enjoyed spending the majority of the day fielding E’s questions about everything from tribes and art history to rodeo and farm life, wonderfully immersed in her abundant curiosity about the world around her.
For more information on the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, click here.