Why Cowgirls Love Broccoli
for George Bush and his vegiphobia
Dreamed 1987/8/19 by Chris Wayan
I'm a cowgirl, standing alone in a ghost-town mansion, on the edge of a cliff in a desert. I'm in long Gold Rush skirts and petticoats (but sensible boots, thank Heaven). The sun is setting, and out the picture-window to the east, crags glow like orange fists. On the distant mountains, blue patches of snow in the cracks. Nevada, by the look, but which basin, I cannot guess.
The house is dingy and old and shrouded in cobwebs. I explore, uneasily thinking "This is all too Gothic for comfort." As the sun sets, I tell myself "the light's too dim now to explore," but my eyes adjust, and I have no more excuses. I go on, gingerly peeling back ancient curtains and spiderwebs, waiting for the Mouldering Mummy to reach out, or whatever I'm here to be bushwhacked by. But there's nothing, just a huge, echoing dusty house. I have a portable camera, and know I'm meant to take photographs, but the light is far too dim, and besides, it looks so much prettier outside than in.
So at last I go out and sit on a sun-warmed ledge, and watch the first stars come out in a dreamy, deepening turquoise sky.
Hoarse voices drift up from the canyon below! I snuggle down, afraid I'm silhouetted against that luminous sky; I was a perfect target.
Now the dusk-lit mesas light up. They're topped with gargantuan coffee cans, twelve-story beer bottles, cereal boxes and cash registers: men have crowned these crags of God with buildings disguised as all the things they love. But what they love shames us all! Money, liquor, and food--are there no higher things?
The men in the canyon sound like drunk cowboys in a grubby little cantina. Suddenly a window opens in the cliff near me, and a drunk climbs out! I say "Be careful you don't fall" as he's quite tipsy. He drawls "Naw, naw" and clambers down the rocks like a somnambulist tarantula.
My camera is now a wine bottle someone has cut holes and a notch into, forming a fat glass flute. Sweet cavernous notes, when I blow on it. Desert music. I like it. But as a bottle, not a camera, it no longer has a trigger to snap records of the strange scene, this drunk emerging from his cliff-dwelling cafe. Too bad. A nice shot lost.
Instead of rapping on the window and risking the cliff-cantina (for those fellows sound rough) I climb down to the ravine floor. Cacti and scuttling spooky creatures: lizards and spiders and men.
Something rustles, but doesn't run. A pile of old newspapers? No, it's a Maiden in Distress! I kneel by her side. Her dress is made of writing-paper... the garbled script for this Gothic Western! The first outer pages peel off and blow away, revealing future pages like layered petticoats. Dressed in words... no, pictures, too! She's an illustrated woman, with vivid grotesque images on each page, of the plants and creatures here, horned and thorned and scaled.
She's a bit that way herself, with faceted insect eyes, and green scaly skin, and a flickering red forked tongue. She has a pretty face, though, and her body's warmer than many a drunk... She's not cold-blooded! What would it be like to kiss that twin twining tongue, I wonder? But the men are watching, I'd best not try. Such gentlemen! Not one of them would aid a lizard in distress.
I pick her up and carry her in my arms.
I pass knots of hard men, circled like Boers around their little fires, and they simply turn to watch me with glittering eyes. They seem bitterly amused by my little parade.
At last I realize: they see a fool city girl, messin' with monsters. Gila monsters. (Their bite, for the information of my Eastern cityfolk readers, is quite poisonous; they are the only venomous lizard known. But they do not live in snow-country.) These boys are waiting for me to get bitten, when she wakes.
But as her paper dress peels away, the pages become leaves, and I realize this green-skinned girl is also...the world's biggest broccoli.
Cowboys hate broccoli, but it's Nature's cancer-cure. I have nothing to fear.
The canyon grows wider until it's clear this is Yo Semite, way over in California. Half Dome looms above. In Mirror Meadow, named for the lake that lay here (I saw it, when a child, but it has silted and blossomed since), I find a great ring of people lying in the grass, listening to a young woman chanting a sort of... sermon.
I lay my lizard-girl down in the ring and lie by her, and wait for her to wake, and listen to our teacher, or preacher, however she styles herself. She recites:
"Blind and deaf, hid in bed,She's right. Can't see the truth that walks in darkness if your eyes are shut.
Heaping covers on your head--
Night-patterns! Hard to see,
When you cower... wilfully."
Wilfully, hmm? Like dreams, like dreams that seem so senseless, so monstrous, so poisonous, that you won't pick them up.
I turn to kiss my monster, and she wakes.
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