A hotel in my town has rechristened its newly remodeled pub the "Silver Spur Lounge." I’m sure they just grabbed the last available piece of cowboy mythology that hadn’t been snapped up by someone else in the local tourism industry. But the name still has me puzzled: What exactly about the reality of upscale downtown hotel fits with the image of "cowboy"?
I envision a future scene like this, with a well-dressed man approaching the front desk of the Silver Spur Hotel:
"Excuse me, do you have any rooms available?"
"Well, welcome, podnah!"
"I’ve stayed here before, I just …"
"It sher has been many a moon since we’ve shared a wigwam!"
"Um, actually I was thinking of the honeymoon suite. We don’t really want to share…"
"Ah! A fine choice! It’s got the queen-sized bedroll!"
"Uh, are you guys hooked for wireless?"
"Keep yer spurs on there! Lemme see what we got!"
"And is it all right to leave my car parked out front there while we wait?"
"Hoo-eee! That shore is a mighty fine hoss!"
"That’s no horse, it’s more like a convertible, and I’ve got the top down so I’m just worried about whether that storm’s coming in…"
"Hoo-boy! Could be a gullywasher!"
"Love the slang, but, do you have the room or not?"
"You know, highpockets, we do! You won’t hafta split soogans with nobody!"
"What did you call me?"
"Highpockets, ‘cuz it looks like you ride tall in the saddle."
"I prefer to be called George Thistlethwaite,if you don’t mind."
"You betcha, highpockets. Now how many moons will you be staying with us?"
"Umm, just one."
"Kin I make you a reservation at the Chuckwagon?"
"Are they still serving the braised sirloin tips with the orange fennel sauce?"
"Tonight we got… stew, plus hardtack ‘n’ beans. If’n you don’t like it, you might could try the Silver Spur Lounge. But I hafta warn ya, tonight the boys may well toss some lead."
"Toss lead? That’s new. Is it a liqueur?"
"No, no, no. Gunslingers, you know. Sheriff wanted ‘em outa town by sundown, but I don’t think they’re a-goin’."
"I don’t remember any of this peculiar chitchat from my previous visit. Whatever happened to the fellow who checked me in last summer?"
"Well hell, he warn’t cowboy enough. New owner fired him."
"You ain’t heard the worst of it. His career was ruint. Kept treatin’ folks like city folks, usin’ these three-syllable words, talkin’ to ‘em ‘bout books an’ whatnot. Ain’t no upscale historic hotel in the West would hire him, less’n he did three-four months of retrainin’ an’ dialect coachin’."
"So what did he do?"
"I hate to say it, Mister. That feller was so useless to our economy nowadays, he had to go get hisself a job on a ranch."
John Clayton is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He watches the West from his home in Red Lodge, Montana.
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