A Dusty Bucket List
an old cowhand from the Rio Grande,
By Craig Altschul
But my legs ain’t bowed, and my cheeks ain’t tanned…
The conventional wisdom is that a so-called “Bucket List” refers to the
things one wants to do before he or she, well, “kicks the bucket.” Most
bucket lists center on travel.
Mine is short. Really short. I’ve done the travel thing to the point where
getting on another airplane holds no allure at all. Truth be told, for
business or pleasure, I’ve been everywhere I want to go.
I’m now quite content to hang between our
home in the cool mountains of the Land of Enchantment (New Mexico); a couple
weeks in paradise on Maui each May; and an every-few-years use-up of reward
points to fascinating London.
So, I’ve changed my definition of “bucket list” away from travel to my inane
vision of high fashion. I have actually done what I’ve threatened to do for
ages. I’ve resisted doing it largely because Peggi has continually
threatened to disown me if I even thought (at least out loud) about doing
I bought a “duster.”
Why? Here’s why: I became an aficionado of the American Cowboy and the Wild
West as a kid. I’d walk with my friends (holsters at the ready) to the
Studio City Theater (sadly, now a bookstore) in the San Fernando Valley
every Saturday morning for the special kids matinee. It was just a few short
blocks from the famous Republic Studios.
There, we breathlessly watched Roy Rogers, Gene Autry,
Tom Mix, Johnny Mack Brown, Hopalong Cassidy and other western stars in
weekly serials (“Continued Next Week”); laugh hysterically at a whole lot of
Woody Woodpecker and Elmer Fudd cartoons, and devour countless boxes of
jujubes much to our dentists’ delight.
I even won the drawing once to the envy of my friends. They had their cap
guns drawn. The prize was an autographed Roy and Trigger coloring book. I’m
not sure who really autographed it, though.
But, back to my “duster.” A “duster,” for those of you not into trail
fashions, is a full-length, loose-fitting longcoat. The original dusters
were indestructible white, brown or black oilcloth coats worn by cowboys to
protect themselves and their clothing from trail dust, rain, and wind.
Dusters were typically slit up the back to hip level for ease of wear in the
saddle and were even the official "uniform" of the Texas Rangers (no, not
the baseball team). A handy cloak at the top kept rain from going down their
backs and gave them a bit of a menacing, pre-vampire movie look.
So, think about those great western movies even in relatively recent years
where the stars (all my heroes) wore dusters. Think Clint Eastwood in
“The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly,” or “High Plains Drifter;”
Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson in “Once Upon A Time In The West;”
Russell Crowe in the remake of “3:10 To Yuma;” Val Kilmer’s Doc
Holliday in “Tombstone;” or Chuck Norris in TV’s “Walker Texas
Doc particularly liked the duster because it was easy to wear over his
shoulders while concealing a long rifle at his side. Without getting too
deep into movie weeds, remember how tough he looked surprising Johnny Ringo
in that epic showdown in Tombstone? “I’m your huckleberry.”
Lest you think I have totally lost it, I don’t own nor ride a horse. Cowboy
boots hurt my feet. I don’t own a rifle, and I look really stupid in a
cowboy hat. I’ve not signed on to any cattle drives lately (OK, ever) and my
blue jeans come from L.L. Bean. But, by God, I subscribe to “True West”
magazine and my “bucket list” is now complete. I finally wear a duster.
I’m also about to be disowned.
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